What is a pseudo-diagnosis?

What is a pseudo-diagnosis? This is a term I invented myself but it is highly possible someone else coined it first or has another word for it. A pseudo-diagnosis is when a person uses terminology that is not clinical, but mental illness is implied in the statement.

A lot of hair-splitting happens here and context is very important. What I mean by this is that terminology might be okay in some situations but not others. For this reason, each situation has to be examined separately and thoroughly. You can’t take a pseudo-diagnosis out of context and assume anything about it. At the same time, I don’t think we should be guessing the speaker’s intent. We cannot read minds. We can only examine what was said (or written).

For instance, a statement such as, “We don’t want to hire you because we heard you have a mental illness” is a diagnosis. A remote one, since no exam occurred (it was only passed-on information), but a diagnosis nonetheless.

Re-worded as a euphemism, the statement could read, “We don’t want to hire you because we think you have issues.” I love this one. “Issues” does not sound very clinical. But a clinical diagnosis is not only implied, but if you ask the speaker, almost every time, diagnosis is the driving force behind this statement.

Other pseudo-diagnoses I have heard are overuse of various axis 2 diagnoses, particularly “psychopath.” From what I can tell, people use this one when they are very very angry at someone, or, they have been abused by that person. I don’t understand why abuse or criminal actions, violent crimes or white collar, should be excused by a disease-word.

I heard a frustrated bus driver call a passenger “psycho” once. This occurred because the bus driver asked the passenger where she was headed. She responded by answering. Then, the bus driver asked again (maybe a half hour later) to clarify and the passenger, who was reading a book at the time, responded again. Then, the bus driver was speaking to another person saying, “What?” The passenger was seated in the back and had no clue she was not being addressed so she repeated back to the bus driver, again, what her destination was.

The bus driver shouted, “I didn’t ask you, PSYCHO!”

I was shocked. I managed to call the central bus people and put in a report. I was scared to do it, honestly, since I get on this bus all the time, but they wanted the details.

I saw this bus driver a number of times after that and she was very courteous to me and also to other passengers. Months have passed and I have not seen her for ages, though. I suspect she moved on to another job.

Remembering the incident, the bus driver didn’t believe the passenger had a mental illness. This had no relation to MI. The driver was only frustrated and tired and used an inappropriate and impolite word on the job. That is all (in other words, don’t read too much into this).

Pseudo-diagnoses can be labels frequently given in the classroom at elementary school, such as “hyper,” “nervous,” “anger issues,” “defiant,” and even “issues with authority.”

I myself have used the term “control issues” and I challenge myself on the use of this. I know people have unresolved issues or current issues with superiors who then take out these issues on others, often vulnerable people who are in positions of less power. I have to be careful when saying this, and maybe say that the person was overly controlling of me in a particular situation, because worded like that, no diagnosis is either stated or implied.

Back when I was unaware of how things worked around here, I revealed to employers in interviews that I would use the bus as transportation to work. I learned that I should not reveal this, as even though most people do take the bus to work, they give preference to people who have their own cars. So I leave out totally how I get to work.

If I say I take the bus I will be eliminated right away. This has nothing to do with mental illness as I am out the door before I step into the interview. Why? Apparently, around here the incarceration rate is extremely high, especially among people who are in the lower income brackets applying for shit jobs (it’s one reason why people are poor). These employers do not go any further with the selection process and they just assume you have a record. It costs money to run a background check and they don’t want to waste their time with me. Now I do not reveal.

I have tried the “car free” line and that does not impress anyone except the occasional lovable weirdo out there. Except folks like you guys who appreciate what I do and somehow see value in it. Except the occasional real human being who laughs at my jokes and even remembers it next time.

Dear Lovable Weirdos….Is there a place for us free of pseudo-diagnoses? Free of harmful labeling and name-calling? Do we have to accept that humans categorize anyway, and this is human nature and the best we can do is get away from labeling ourselves, as individuals, and live freely? Do we accept that others find the labels useful for whatever reason, and let them flash their OWN labels around so they can collect psych disability for decades….and then collect the sad consequences? Do we just walk away? What is the best tactic here?

2 thoughts on “What is a pseudo-diagnosis?”

  1. Psychiatric “diagnoses” are really moral judgments of a person’s character. And very hopeless one’s too.

    Instead of saying, “John’s moody, irritable, and hard to get along with,” shrinks say, “John has bipolar with psychotic features.” The former statement is actually more hopeful and might help John if he heard it. John could learn to control his moods and get along better with those around him. Plus there would be no “stigma” since folks would know John was just being a human–though his moodiness, irritability, and nasty behaviors might be more pronounced than other people’s.

    1. When you get the disease model in there, you can claim it’s a valid “disability” and even excuse bad behavior on the job. This is why I think that guy who had temper tantrums was kept on at the supermarket. Somehow someone had put in an ADA accommodation paper for him and they begrudgingly kept him, but at the same time, they turned me down when I mentioned I would have to use visual aids (stickers placed on the side of a keypad) as accommodation to see the keys, and would take the bus to work. Where is “stickers” documented? Also, it was a different supermarket, same chain, different manager. He may have been a relative of one of the managers, also, or a relative of a town official. Job via nepotism.

Feedback and comments welcome!