It is not uncommon for individuals to disagree with their psychiatric diagnosis. The experience of perceived misdiagnosis can be challenging for service users, as mainstream psychiatric theory often views this disagreement as an indication of “poor insight” into their putative illness. Some researchers have suggested that labeling a service user as lacking insight can be detrimental to the service user’s recovery. Regardless of whether a person agrees with his or her diagnosis, persons labeled with “mental illness” sometimes internalize the discrimination and stigma that they encounter. However, few studies have examined the lived experience of disagreeing with a diagnosis. The present study investigated the first-person experiences of three individuals who believed that they were misdiagnosed with a psychotic disorder. As part of a larger study, participants completed in-depth interviews about their life history and experiences in psychiatric hospitals. Data were analyzed using phenomenological methods. Participants felt that their clinicians assigned an erroneous and stigmatizing label that did not match their self-experience. Diagnostic dissent, a form of perceived misdiagnosis, was a way for individuals to assert their self-experience against perceived invalidation and stigmatizing labels.

Faith A. Forgione
Journal of Humanistic Psychology, June 4, 2018