Are you a mental health professional feeling ” Burned Out ” ? In Denial yourself?

It is just silly to pretend that mental health professionals do not experience the same issues and struggles that their clients and patients do. We all have periods of down time, or burnout. The good news, is that it is fairly predictable, and following a few guidelines can help you avoid the problem. Check this list to see if you are considering the idea that your stuck, and how to get past it so you can give healthy advice to those you serve! Dont be afraid, we all go through periods like this..


You are mentally ill! Everyone has a ” disorder “, find out what you have…

Everyone can meet criteria for a mental health disorder and diagnoses. That is the way the system is set up. Do you prefer to find out what you ” have ” or would you prefer to move on from this post, and ignore the idea of you having a ” disorder “? I am doing a free evaluation today for anybody. Let me grab my DSM and we can get on with it. For those not familiar, the DSM is the book that mental health professionals use to figure out what you ” have ” when it comes to mental health disorders and making a formal diagnoses on you.  It is not extremely complex, but more like a collection of symptoms people have and a grouping, or as I like to call it- labeling.

The diagnoses are grouped according to what categories fit together in the form of what they call an AXIS. Axis 1, Axis II, Axis III, Axis IV and so on. Each axis represents a specific underlying reason for the diagnoses in that group. For example, Lets say Axis IV is  ” psycho-social stressors”. If you go to a mental health clinician for an evaluation, they will do a total assessment first on you covering anything from your medical history, to you and the abuse you suffered as a child. After the initial assessment, the narrowing down begins as to what group (Axis) or groups you fit into, according to the information you gave the clinician as compared with the DSM criteria to fall into a certain category. Once this is determined, it is time to get down to a specific diagnoses or maybe several.

So you have told me that you feel depressed but not all the time, just sometimes, and it really does not interfere with your daily routine. That along with a few  minor details is enough for you to score a label! Maybe medicine for depression even. You have dysthymia. From this day forward, you have a mental health history and a label. It’s that simple. So what do you have? OCD? PTSD? ANXIETY? The list is long, and the criteria is not very difficult to meet for anyone who has suffered a period in their life of depression, or watched Dr Phil and think they have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder like the guest. All you need is the correct key words and you are in the club of people with mental health disorders. That brief example and this post is not meant to discount mental health disorders, as they are real and can inflict serious problems with the life of the one suffering. My point is we all can squeeze our way into some diagnoses, especially if you are aware of the criteria. Let me give a quick example, that is a bit shocking but true that I personally was involved in.

Years ago I was involved in the start- up operation of an alternative school for expelled youth, I hired about 45 staff members, and trained them all on many different topics, one being the importance of finding a balance with labels that kids come in with. Just because they have been diagnosed with ” intermittent explosive disorder ” does not mean they cannot learn their way out of that label. To accomplish this objective, I decided to take the criteria straight from the DSM for  ” Major Depressive Disorder “, copy it and make it into a worksheet similar to multiple choice. I took the disorder label off so it would appear just as a question and answer handout, and nobody put their name on it, so we did not violate any laws of privacy. I got my people in one of our training rooms one morning, and announced that today we will start with a survey to fill out and proceeded to hand out 45 surveys, and asked them to take their time, fill it out and return to me. They turned them in and I gave them some materials on another subject to read while I went over the information. Now these are teachers, therapists, nurses, and highly educated, along with some other staff that did not have a degree but were proficient in what they did. A mixed pot! After review, and running some numbers I was NOT surprised to see that nearly 65% met full criteria for Major Depressive Disorder! Another 25% met criteria for one of the depressive or anxiety disorders, leaving about 10% not meeting criteria for any depressive disorder. I shared that with the group and jaws dropped. We discussed it all afternoon, and how perspective is everything when dealing with the kids they were about to try to teach. It was one of the most effective trainings I have ever done and one that should only be done in certain circumstances and with someone trained in the DSM and understanding that we cannot diagnose ourselves or others unless qualified. I had worked with a Psychiatrist for years doing assessments so I happened to be prepared for the boundaries needed in the training, and the lines that cannot be crossed. I educated, but did not diagnose anyone.

As I close this post, I will encourage you to get educated before you get labeled. Make sure you need what you are asking for. When my own kids display a certain behavior in their school, if a teacher starts talking about her or his opinion of what may be ” wrong” with them, I am quick to respond with  – DONT LABEL MY KID! You should too, until you have done your homework. If you are an adult, same rule applies. Get educated before you take the step to see a mental health worker who may just decide you are BI-POLAR! It is serious enough to do the homework, and again I am not at all discounting mental health issues. I am suggesting that we as a society may have become too quick to accept or assign labels to ourselves or our kids that may not be needed. I am out.


Is my DSM mental health diagnoses correct? How do I know? I don’t feel Bi-Polar!

Well. I said it was coming and the plane has landed on this topic. I like to keep my posts easy to read and filled with information, yet brief enough that you can take the time to read them. My best shot here at doing this. Asking the question “is my diagnoses accurate” is really not one that can be answered by anyone.

If you ask ” do my symptoms seem to meet the criteria for a diagnoses of depression” for example, it is much easier to answer. Everyone experiences periods of depression at some point in their lifetime. Usually a medical professional will call this “situational depression”. If the symptoms last longer than a certain period of time, you may be bumped up to a new level of depression, such as Major Depressive disorder, or Depression not specified, which is also known as NOS. Not otherwise specified. So say you have a loved one die, and you are slightly depressed. That is normal. However, after a few weeks you begin to drink a little nip throughout the day to get you by. The next few weeks are even worse, so you see a psychiatrist. You tell him you have been feeling depressed for a month or more, and leave out the drinking part. You are now just a few questions away from a major depression diagnoses! The doctor may ask you if you ever have mood swings. Maybe next a quicky about if anyone in the family has suffered from depression. Family history plays a part in diagnosing too! You answer “well, uncle Jim is a big drinker and gets depressed all the time, but the rest of us are good.” Then a few more questions and suddenly you are leaving with prescription for an anti-depressant in hand, and a label to go with it. You are now “suffering” from major depressive disorder.

How can that be, you ask? Simple, it is all in the bible of mental health, the DSM-V which is the latest edition. Recently, some diagnoses were removed under the Autism spectrum, not because they do not exist, but the cost to treat the child or adult was too much. So, they take it out of the DSM and POOF! The diagnoses is not valid anymore and the benefits go away. The DSM is a book with a list of diagnoses and the criteria needed to meet those diagnoses. Many people could easily meet criteria for some type of psychosis, as we have all had our moments.

However, when I was collecting information with a psychiatrist for years helping to rule out, or issue a diagnoses, I noticed something unsettling. Many times after I screened a client and either found that they met criteria for a diagnoses, such as AD/HD, I realized that the information I received from the parent was often verbatim of at least 10 symptoms which must be present out of the 13 needed to be diagnosed with AD/HD. They knew what to say to meet criteria since they did their homework! When a child has a “disability” many places will issue a check to the guardian each month for the “disability”. I once had a mother tell me that she had 3 small boys and got them all diagnosed with something, and made more money than she ever could working for a living!

There is also the huge problem of living up to the label, which we often see in public everyday. People are told they have ” anger control” problems, so what do they do? They live up to the expectation! They have a good excuse. Now let me be clear,there are people who have uncontrollable behaviors that need medication and 1 on 1 monitoring all the time. These are not the ones I refer to. There will be more detail on the DSM-V and the power it gives a mental health professional in coming posts. Right now, think about how you, or someone you know was diagnosed with whatever disorder they have. Do they act any different since they were told about their new-found disorder? People tend to believe what they are told!

People do not often dispute anything they are told when it comes to mental health issues, unless they have a background in it, just like any other profession. For example-

I posted a statistic yesterday about what percentage of information we believe and how we adopt information from what other people say. Specific numbers. I made it all up. I did not get one bit of feedback or a comment disputing my numbers. I will not do that again, but it needs to be shown how vulnerable we are sometimes.

Please leave any comments or questions you may have, and do contact me personally for help in whatever situation you are in. I am a trained Social Worker with 25 years in the field, working with all ages, and disabilities. I can help you for an hour, for a month, or support you through an even longer period if needed.

Please view my link at




Will this book affect you or someone you love forever?
Today I will share with you my experiences over 25 years with this book and how it is used by doctors to give out labels. Its not for the faint of heart, so my next post may be surprising to some, but it is the truth. That’s what I do.