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  • Writer's pictureGurmat Therapy

Dangers of misdiagnosis of mental health conditions in the biomedical system

The biomedical health model, which is based on a disease/treatment model, is widely used in the field of mental health to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. However, this model has serious limitations and results in continuous misdiagnosis of the human condition causing harm to patients and ineffective short-term treatment.

Mental health misdiagnosis can dismiss natural human experiences by pathologising normal human emotions and behaviours. It can lead to individuals being incorrectly labeled with a mental health 'disorders' when in fact they are experiencing normal, healthy emotions or reactions to life events.

Here are some ways in which the biomedical health model can misdiagnose mental health conditions:

  1. Overreliance on diagnostic criteria: The biomedical model relies heavily on diagnostic criteria to identify mental health conditions. However, these criteria may not always accurately capture the complexity of mental health issues or take into account individual differences in symptoms and experiences.

  2. Masking symptoms: Mental health drugs predominantly mask the symptoms of a mental health condition, rather than treating the underlying cause. This can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment, and may ultimately worsen the condition.

  3. Biological reductionism: The biomedical model often reduces mental health conditions to biological or genetic factors, without taking into account the impact of social, psychological, and environmental factors.

  4. Ignoring contextual factors: The biomedical model often fails to consider contextual factors such as cultural and social influences, life experiences, and environmental stressors that may contribute to mental health conditions.

  5. Stigmatising mental illness: The biomedical model can reinforce stigma around mental illness by portraying it as a biological defect or disease that needs to be fixed, rather than a normal part of the human experience.

  6. Profit motive: The biomedical healthcare industry is largely profit-driven, and prevention is often seen as less profitable than treatment. Pharmaceutical companies, for example, may make more money from developing and selling drugs to treat diseases rather than investing in preventative measures.

  7. Lack of emphasis on prevention: The biomedical model is based on a reductionist approach that focuses on the biological mechanisms of disease and illness. This approach tends to prioritise treatment rather than prevention and discredits the mind-body connection.

  8. Medical training: Medical education is largely focused on diagnosing and treating illness rather than preventing it. This training can lead to a bias towards treatment-led approaches among healthcare professionals.

Here are some dangers associated with misdiagnosis of mental health conditions under the biomedical health model:

  1. Inappropriate treatment: If a mental health condition is misdiagnosed, the treatment prescribed may not be appropriate, and may even be harmful. For example, if a person is diagnosed with depression but actually has multifaceted trauma complex, prescribing antidepressants without appropriate therapy can trigger manic episode, additional psychological confusion and long term deterioration of symptoms.

  2. Stigma: Misdiagnosis can lead to stigma around mental health conditions, with individuals being labeled as "crazy" or "unstable" based on inaccurate diagnoses.

  3. Worsening of symptoms: If a person is misdiagnosed and receives inappropriate treatment or 'instant relief' mental health drugs, their symptoms may worsen, leading to more distress and even a delay in receiving the proper diagnosis and treatment.

  4. Disempowerment: Misdiagnosis can lead to feelings of disempowerment and hopelessness, with individuals feeling as though their experiences and symptoms are not being taken seriously.

  5. Negative impact on relationships: Misdiagnosis can lead to strained relationships with family and friends, as well as negative impacts on work and social life.

Masking symptoms means that medications can alleviate or suppress some of the symptoms of negative psychological states, but not treat the underlying root-cause. This can be a problem because it may give the impression that the condition is improving or has been resolved, when in fact the underlying issue is still present.

For example, consider a person with depression who is experiencing symptoms such as low mood, lack of motivation, and decreased appetite. If they are prescribed an antidepressant that improves their mood and increases their appetite, they may feel better and think that their depression has resolved. However, the underlying cause of their depression may still be present, such as a stressful work environment, relationship problems, or a traumatic experience. If the drug is masking the symptoms of depression, it may delay the person from seeking appropriate treatment to address the underlying cause. If the underlying cause of mental afflictions are not addressed, it can lead to the condition worsening over time.

It is important for healthcare providers to take a holistic approach to mental health treatment and address the underlying cause of a person's symptoms, rather than just alleviating or suppressing the symptoms with drugs. This may involve therapy, lifestyle changes, or other forms of treatment in addition to medication.

Misdiagnosis can also lead to stigma and shame around normal human experiences. It can make individuals feel as if there is something wrong with them or that they are abnormal for experiencing certain emotions or behaviors. This can be harmful to their mental health and can exacerbate their symptoms.

Furthermore, misdiagnosis can also result in missed opportunities for appropriate treatment for individuals who do have a mental health condition. If their symptoms are dismissed as a natural human experience, they may not receive the proper diagnosis and treatment that could help them manage their condition and improve their quality of life.

The limitations of the biomedical model in mental health are well documented, and we hope that more mental health professionals have began to adopt a more holistic and person-centered approach to therapeutic sustainable healthcare. By doing so, mental health professionals can reduce the risks associated with misdiagnosis and provide more effective treatment for individuals living with mental health conditions.

Our Integral Holistic Health Therapy approach emphasises the importance of considering the whole person, their life experiences, and the social and cultural context in which they live when diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. Mental health professionals should being putting at the forefront, emphasis, on the importance of individualised treatment plans that are tailored to each person's unique needs and experiences.

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