Saturday, February 8, 2014

Reflections on "Armchair Psychology"

There is a growing phenomenon that causes me concern.  For lack of a better name I will call it “armchair psychology”.  

Photo courtesy of Wikia
Growing numbers of ordinary people are looking up mental health terminology and diagnosing their family and friends based on these online lists.   People are being diagnosed with mental health issues based on assumptions made about the way they have acted in a particular situation or words they have spoken.  

No therapist is ever visited or consulted, no mental health examination is ever given, and yet a psychological evaluation and diagnosis is made! 

People are being labeled without ever seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist or any other mental health practitioner!  People are being labeled as mentally ill, and even worse, as toxic without any professional mediation or intervention!

The current practice seems to simple be: "if the label fits because of a subjective perception then it must be true". 

“However, just because a particular label 
may work perfectly 
because it fits in with one's own 
subjective perception of who the other person is 
does not make it a true diagnosis.”
                     ~  grandparent alienation is not natural

This growing trend scares me because this is NOT a diagnosis but rather a "speculation".  

These are only speculations and assumptions and yet some people proceed as if this were in fact a medical diagnosis!  

What scares me even more is the fact that people are being shunned based on these assumptions.  They are being gossiped about, half truth stories are told about them behind their back and their reputations are sullied and even destroyed based on these "non-professional speculations".

Because of these “armchair diagnoses”, we are seeing actions being taken, that we would never consider if there were an actual medical diagnosis.   

In the case of a REAL medical diagnosis family and friends rally around and become supportive and try to help the person who is ill to get better.  The person who really is suffering with a mental health issue is lovingly cared for, nurtured and supported. 

In the case of “armchair diagnoses” the labeled person is shunned and tossed away as “defective” without any emotional support. They are left adrift to try to piece together what happened without any loving support from those who should have been by their side. 
What is strikingly missing in the case of “armchair diagnosis” is follow up care and the compassion that a REAL therapist would offer. 

A REAL therapist would be there for every appointment to help and offer support on the healing journey.

A REAL therapist would listen and give feedback and advice.

A REAL therapist would show compassion and consideration and empathy.

A REAL therapist would NOT gaslight or call their patient names or gossip about their patients condition online.

A REAL therapist would suggest healing practices and options and follow up with the patient to ensure that progress is being made.

A REAL therapist would rejoice in every victory on the road to healing with the patient.

These "armchair therapists" that throw around names of conditions while pretending to know what they are talking about don't have any idea how a REAL therapist would label the situation or what kind of help they would offer. And yet these “armchair therapists” throw around labels as if they have a right to diagnose mental health problems. 

If they were to do the same thing in medicine they would be “practicing medicine without a license”. It would be frowned upon and people wouldn't stand for it!  

Yet why are people so quick to accept the opinion of someone “practicing mental health evaluation without a license”? 

I am concerned with this growing practice.  

I am concerned about the damage these "armchair therapists" are wrecking on innocent lives. 

I am concerned about the negative impact this will have on people who have actual diagnosed mental illnesses and how they will be treated because of this prevalent practice.
I have begun to wonder how REAL therapists feel about these "armchair therapists"?

Renate Dundys Marrello
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  1. I have been officially diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and was at to access Psychology services. The few appointments I attended helped me greatly and I was managing well. I found out a few days ago, that a so called friend had been suggesting to my husband that I may have a personality disorder because some of the symptoms "fit". The symptoms that do fit, also apply to GAD.
    I cannot stress how livid I am at my friend's amateur diagnosis. It has only served to make the anxiety worse. I was coping and then this pushed me into a crisis. Please leave it to the professionals, as the amount of potential harm that could occur could be catastrophic. I'm fortunate that I have ways to cope these days.

    1. So sorry to hear your friend of all people doing the armchair diagnosis. My sister has done that. I don't see her anymore. I hope you can carry on quickly. The hurt will take longer to go away, unfortunately, at least in my experience it still hurts

  2. Renate, you are absolutely spot on with your blog. While I have a BA in Psychology and have worked in the field since 1978, my middle son's girlfriend just got her BS in Psychology.She wasted no time diagnosing me as a Narcissist while a sophomore. I've been a client of counseling in my career to assist me in many phases of my life. No one has ever placed a diagnosis on me. I am the last person to be considered narcissistic. To keep peace in their home, my son has informed me they will no longer associate with me, nor let me see my second grandchild, a lovely girl I spent the first four years of her life with. Now it's been almost 5 years since I have so much as talked to her on the phone and she lives 150 miles away. I am broken hearted over this... This woman has also gone on to my professional social media pages and tore me to shreds. My son and husband, who still talk, have said nothing about this, which hurts even more. Who is teaching these people this? I can on and on about throwing "toxic" people out of your life like an empty soda bottle. My primer while in college was "I'm Okay, You're Okay" as we learned to accept, tolerate and cope with other's differences. This new trend will blow up in our faces in 20 years...