Pitfalls of Diagnosing Kids with a Mental Illness

Kids and Their Psychiatric "Disorders"

This morning, I read a disturbing headline: 1 in 5 Kids May Have Psych Disorder.

Say what? It makes me wonder: What are we doing to our children?

As someone who has been in the field for 20 years, I have seen diagnosing children with a psych disorder do more harm than good. Children fulfill the prophesies of these mental health diagnostic labels and it is very hard to recover from these identities supported by years of mental health practitioners, with albiet good intentions, telling them what is wrong with them and that they have to "cope" with it.

Lighten Up! Do You Make A Big Deal Out Of Everything?

lighten up!Yesterday, I listened while a client of mine who is employed as a teacher, talked about the parent of one of her kids. She said the mom felt like she had to point out what was wrong with the child or felt like she wasn't doing her job. I get it. If you neglect your child, you could never advocate for them to get what they need. If you don't see them straying from the path, how could you gently encourage them to get back on track? Right.

But by labeling young children with a mental illness diagnosis are we creating a generation who is too scared to see and celebrate the positives? Will we end up with children who are inadequately avoiding what they have to fix, so they fixate on everything that is wrong with them? (Just like their parents.)

I wish it weren't so.

Is Diagnosing a Child with a Mental Illness About Control?

It is about control. If you don't make big deal out of things, you are not doing enough to make yourself better. As if somehow controlling "feeling better," can help us get there. Wow. Sometimes we are so intense.

Controlling "feeling better" keeps us far away from feeling better. Because it has judgment written all over it.

This line of thinking fills us with anxiety because we can never be adequate enough if we are always looking for something wrong, (we can twist anything into being wrong or our fault, or not good enough.) Where do we stand in this scenario? This kind of thinking is a trap of our psyches in the worst kind of prison. We can't be good, (too egotistical, and "negligent") and we can't be bad (got to fix it). We are not allow to be anything. No wonder all our kids have neurosis.

Also, yesterday, I sat with a 40 year old woman who's father keeps telling her she needs to lose weight. In his defense, I am looking out for you, he says, I just want you to be healthy and happy. But he doesn't understand that his judgment of her inadequacy, further lowers her self esteem and does more harm than good.

Please Lighten Up!

This anxiety that if you miss what is wrong, you might not be able to fix it seems ingrained in our culture where negative judgments wear neon signs and the preferred gets downgraded: "You are so kind." Everyone does it. People are supposed to do that.

Sometimes I think we have to lighten up. We have to see that nothing is wrong with us. Not to be invalidating, I mean things happen to us that are unbearable, injust and horrible. Nobody ought to endure such betraying treatment that some of us endure. It is truly not fair.

But we are not those events. We respond to them and we wouldn't be human if we didn't. Nothing is wrong with us for feeling bad. Why does feeling have to be labeled as a disorder? What a time in the world this is.

We very much create and sustain anxiety in this country, and then we label it as wrong.

What if we didn't take ourselves so seriously? What if we laughed at our more ridiculous worries-you know the ones I mean-instead of judging them, embedding them more firmly in our brain.

I was telling another client yesterday to have more compassion for himself. (He is in a no-win judgment prison of feeling like I mentioned above–he is not allow to be sad his girlfriend died because that is weak and it would make her feel guilty, and he is not allowed to not feel sad because that would suggest he didn't care about her.)

He asked, How to I do that? I said whatever you feel, say: This is OK. I am OK to feel this way.

Sometimes we need an invitation to circumvent all of the judgments. Here is yours:

Personal Invitation to Heal

You are cordially invited to heal from past and present hurts.

You are invited to let go of worries, because you now know that you can handle whatever comes your way. The risks of “going for it” is that you have an experience you can grow from. You can gain confidence at your skills in managing yourself. You can be proud of your response.

You are respectfully invited to connect with people. See relationships and situations from the big picture where things are not so personal, and not as “against you” as you thought. You see that everyone is going through their own stuff.

You are invited to stop taking yourself so seriously. Ease up. Relax.

I invite you to breathe easy since no matter what situation you are in, you are not alone.

I invite you to have more fun, more silliness, more love.

Humans have at least 18 distinct types of smiles. I invite you to use one.

Take good care.


I blog here: Heal Now and Forever Be In Peace
and here: Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog,
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APA Reference
Lobozzo, J. (2013, June 12). Pitfalls of Diagnosing Kids with a Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 17 from

Author: Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R

Pitfalls of Diagnosing Kids with a Mental Illne...
June, 19 2013 at 1:29 pm

[...] Kids and Their Psychiatric "Disorders" This morning, I read a disturbing headline: 1 in 5 Kids May Have Psych Disorder. Say what? It makes me wonder: What  [...]

Sunrise Guided Visualizations
June, 15 2013 at 10:46 am

What a lovely, brilliantly written piece! And so much wisdom!

June, 15 2013 at 7:10 am

Taking yourself less serious allows you to feel less anxious about day to day life events that occur. When we as the parents are always anxious and worried, our children pick up on that anxiety and model it from us. Stay calm and realize that anxiety is a part of life but it does not have to control us.

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