Have you ever wondered if you have a mental disorder? Many of us have considered this question at one time or another. A good question to ask yourself is: Are my problems or symptoms getting in the way in my life? If they are, then it's a good idea to seek help. You may or may not have a diagnosable mental disorder, but getting professional help will help you get your life back under control.
In the DSM-IV, the official listing of mental disorders in the U.S., this concept of a problem "getting in the way" is usually addressed with words such as "the disturbance is sufficiently severe to to cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning."
Where To Find More Information
Information about different mental disorders is spread throughout this site, but focused in the Mental Illness section. You can read about the difference between sadness and depression, for example, but where do you draw the line in your own life? If the sadness is getting in the way, then it's time to do something. Most of us worry at times. If the worrying is starting to cause problems, then seek help. You do not have to be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder or another anxiety disorder to benefit from professional help if the worrying is causing problems for you.
The Purpose of Mental Illness Diagnosis
The purpose of a diagnosis is to convey information about a problem and to suggest some possible solutions. Too much reading about mental health diagnoses can itself become a problem. For example, most of us have heard of "medical student syndrome" - when medical students read so much about diseases that they come to believe that they suffer from one of them.
The symptoms that are listed for many mental disorders are symptoms that most of us can identify with, at least on a small scale. Stay focused on finding a solution to the problems in your life, rather than on getting the "correct diagnosis". If a problem is getting in the way, then get help.
American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fourth Edition. Washington D.C., 1994.