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Why Can’t I Get a Diagnosis?

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From a teen in the U.S.: I currently have a therapist that I’ve known for about 3-4 years, and have had good communication and have been able to work through some stuff. However, it seems no matter what I can do, I never receive a diagnosis or know what I’m dealing with specifically.

Since I was a child, I’ve known there is something wrong with my brain in the way I behave and think. I’ve never been tested for anything mentally or psychologically and it’s so uncomfortable that I can’t be told what exactly is wrong with me so I can feel comfortable in my identity and know what exactly I can do to help myself. It would also help me to relate to other people with similar issues or have just any sort of identity, since I haven’t a shred of it.

I know that this isn’t an overnight kind of thing and I sound rather impatient and I feel silly for it, but it’s uncomfortable that I know I have problems and all I can do is suppress them because I don’t know how to explain them when I don’t act like I’m fine. I just feel unheard, not understood, irregular and uncomfortable with myself.

My question is this: is there a step I’m not taking? A type of professional or place I should see or go to? Is there someone that can tell me what exactly I’m dealing with?Or is this just the way it is and I’m just misunderstanding?

Why Can’t I Get a Diagnosis?

Answered by on -


You have a legitimate question. After 3-4 years of treatment, I don’t think you are impatient. What you didn’t share with me is whether you have talked to your therapist about how helpful it would be to have a diagnosis. My guess is that he/she has a working idea of what is going on with you. It may be that you have a number of overlapping issues and, since you are so young, she’s reluctant to come to a decisive conclusion. But that’s a discussion worth having.

Do bear in mind that diagnoses are not facts. They are helpful in giving professionals a direction for treatment. They are helpful for professionals to use for talking/conferring with each other. But they aren’t intended to label a person. They aren’t intended to settle once and for all who you are.

But you’re correct. They can help a person feel more comfortable and they can open up other avenues for conversations and treatment (like a support group or group therapy, for examples).

I urge you to have a frank discussion with your therapist. You started seeing her when you were only about 12. She may have withheld a diagnosis at the time because you were too young to understand its implications. But you are 16 now and old enough to become more of a partner in your treatment. Talking about her thoughts about diagnosis and your reaction to it may shift your therapy in a positive way.

I wish you well.

Dr. Marie

Why Can’t I Get a Diagnosis?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2020). Why Can’t I Get a Diagnosis?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 27 Jun 2020 (Originally: 1 Jul 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 27 Jun 2020
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