What are the benefits and risks of using diagnostic labels to identify and describe abnormal behavior?

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mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Having been through too many doctors with my son, there are both benefits and risks to labels.  The benefits are that the labels are recognizable to professionals so that expectations of behavior are described.  The labels help set up programs which have helped people with these behaviors based on past experience.  The risks are that many of those with abnormal behavior don't fit into all the characteristics of a label. For example, the label for Emotionally Behaviorally Disordered covers much too big a field, and students who have a learning disability which causes the emotional behavior is missed with the child incorrectly labeled.  The other biggest risk is that if a person has one diagnostic label, the professionals working with them may not see any other underlying problems because the first label explains enough.  For example, if a child is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the underlying Asbergers Spectrum may not be seen.  The other problem is that often with a label, medication is used, and if the label is incorrect, the medication often is as well which can cause huge problems, even life threatening problems.  This is a very important question for anyone planning to work in the field of psychology as lives can be changed by an incorrect label.

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