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How Important Is A Diagnosis?

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I was having a semi-heated discussion with my son's pediatrician about the concept of a diagnosis; he claims that a "diagnosis" is a poor concept of Western medicine that leads to pigeon-holing people and a lack of treating the whole person adequately. His concept is more Eastern or holistic, in that one body system has direct influence over or influences all the others unless there is a purely organic/physical problem (tumor, broken arm, etc.) and that a diagnosis hinders the treatment of the whole person.

Has a "diagnosis" helped your treatment? or at least its recognition by other health professionals?

Perhaps I am too Western in my search for a diagnosis, and I am just searching for validation that I am indeed sick (with something...maybe I have Fred in my head instead of Ami's Gilbert in her arm. :o )

Any opinions?

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Interesting question. I was very pleased when I finally got the diagnosis. Has it improved my treatment? Probably not, but only because a previously doctor had already gone down the route of trying to fix the symptoms and since there is nothing to cure POTS, having a label didn't change the need to fix those same symptoms with the same drugs.

Did the diagnosis make me feel better? Yes, it was nice to acquire the right label psychologically and I don't have to justify to people that I do feel ill. And though I was certain that most people don't feel the way I do, it was good to have that acknowledged by the medical profession. I feel I gained a certain amount of respect from my doctors instead of scepticism (and probably despair that they previously didn't know what to do for the best).

I would take the best of Western and Eastern medicine to get to the best answer for you. My experience with Eastern medicine is that, in principle, it sounds great and it can be helpful, but it also has a lot of limitations in its application. With the best will in the world, I don't see what Eastern medicine has to offer to replace, say, midodrine.

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It makes all the difference in the world. For 30 years I was treated as a nutcase (conversion disorder, Munchaussen, phychogenic). Now that I have the medical proof that I have a physical disorder I have proper treatment and the respect of most of the medical community.

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It all depends on what reaction you want from what type of person. When dealing with Western doctors it certainly does help to be able to say doctor X diagnosed me with Y and Z. It may well not make any difference to what treatment (if any) they are able to offer but at least most doctors acnowledge that there is something wrong with you.

As Ernie said to be treated like a "nutcase" is a disgusting response that too many of us have faced. In my experience though having a diagnosis doesn't always prevent that sort of treatment. Whilst in hospital last year I was see by a neurologist who told me that there was no such condition as POTS and that there was nothing wrong with me and that I should see a psychiatrist! (that type of attitude is thankfully in the minority).

It can also be important when dealing with financial issues (sick pay, disability allowances, insurance claims) as most forms need a diagnosis and list of tests, treatments etc.

In day to day life it makes little difference. I could tell my friends I had pink spotted cow disease and they would understand no more or less than they do when I say I have POTS. Depending on your doctor they may already have tried the right medications based on your symptoms even if you don't have a lable.

I see an alternative / complementary practitioner as well as my western doctors, she was intetrested to know what diagnoses I had been given but doesn't use them in her treatments as she aims to assess the balance/imbalance in different body systems and work to restore normal balance rather than treating a specific illness.


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I guess I am probably more inclined to the Eastern philosophy of your pediatrician. When I had only the official diagnosis of hashimoto thyroid ... my doctors and I wrongly interpreted all of my symptoms as thyroid related (or simply crazy). Then when I was told that I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome all of my symptoms -- even new things over the years -- were also thrown onto the trashcan diagnosis of CFS. Then came POTS ... I must say I was relieved to have POTS in my medical charts, because it was something "prove-able". But did that actually make a difference in treatment? Not so much. I was already salt loading and wearing compression stockings (because before they thought it was just some kind of idiopathic orthostatic intolerance.) And even WITH the POTS diagnosis I still get the occiasional quack who says "I don't think you have POTS. Dysautonomia is very rare. I bet you looked this up on the Internet and self-diagnosed."

I also have panic disorder, on top or more likely BECAUSE of all of the physical autonomic issues I face. But here again, having a label for ME may have caused more harm than good. For instance, when I started getting really bad "panic attacks" last spring and my POTS seemed to be acting out ... I blamed myself thinking that I simply was loosing ground coping with my panic attacks. I did this for months as I fell farther and farther down the rabbit hole, only to learn some time later that I was reactive hypoglycemic and these attacks were not caused by panic at all.

As a Zen follower and now disabled from working in my high tech career of over 2 decades ... I am probably at the point in my life where my "mind" is no longer the first place that I seek answers. That includes the mind of my doctors as well. I am fortunate in that respect as my primary physician for over 8 years has always treated me with the utmost respect, even before I had any official labels ... moreso he admits to not knowing what to do to help and I appreciate that. This type of "beginners mind" as we call it in Zen, allows my Doctor and I to continue to explore new interesting areas with a genuine curiosity that has led us to discover some unusual and often helpful healing modalities.

Thank you for raising the question, it is a good one to consider for our own healing journey.


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