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Armchair Diagnosing: Exercise caution, and don't believe everything you read

If you've scrolled through social media, listened to a podcast, read a magazine article, or watched one of the countless videos streaming out there, you've likely encountered titles like, "10 reasons your partner may be a narcissist." or "5 reasons trauma is responsible for all of your problems," or any number of other labels; some actual diagnoses and many simply classifications given popularity by professionals with resources to publish books. Maybe you've identified with some of this content, maybe you've felt validated by some of it, maybe you've even saved yourself some severe emotional pain by heeding advice from them. I'm not here to judge any of that. My intention is to encourage you all to filter this content through a lens of critical thinking and as much objectivity as you can muster.

In graduate level training, budding therapists are taught to scrutinize literature for validity and reliability, rather than accepting these findings as noteable at face value. This basically means the standards of testing are appropriate, findings are based on studies that test what was intended to be tested, and the results remain consistent when the study is replicated (APA, 2014). Articles that have been peer-reviewed have been read and analyzed by numerous professional peers within the field, weighing the content against facts, scientific evidence, and practice-based evidence. They are concerned with the validity and reliability of how these findings were developed and delivered, as well as the relevance to populations noted in the study and publication.

In contrast to published content based in science, there is literature based on anecdotal experiences, opinions, and subjective insights from the author or person being interviewed. Even some articles you find in magazines with the word "Psychology" in the title may fall into this latter category, rather than the former. Remember, though the author of what you're reading in this magazine, and other like it, have the fancy letters after their name, this is still a magazine, not a research journal. Allow me to restate that many of these subjective pieces still have relevance for some of the readers. I've written some of these "practice-based evidence" anecdotal pieces, myself, for other similar publications. There is value in professionals sharing their experience with the general population. The real problem is when authors start creating labels for people they've never met, or suggesting that anyone can simply diagnose someone as having a personality disorder based on a 10-item checklist.

Personality Disorders are serious, and sometimes severe, labels. Criteria for accurately diagnosing these disorders has been researched, argued, validated, scrutinized, revamped, and sometimes completely changed. Persons charged with diagnosing these disorders have received a great deal of initial training, and hopefully maintain quality and relevant continuing education in these areas. "Empowering" ev