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I would like to make a citizen’s diagnosis. Graphic by Sarah Lofgren (inspired by Charles Schulz)

Why do psychologists get to diagnose everyone?

Let the rest of us have some fun, ya selfish assholes!

Okay, I don’t really believe psychologists are assholes. Psychiatrists aren’t jerk faces and counselors aren’t stinky toe-brained poopsicles. People in these professions do a lot of good and important things. But mental health professionals have a tendency to be overly protective when it comes to letting other interested parties figure out why people are whacked.

(“Why People are Whacked” is a term my psych 101 professor used to describe abnormal psychology.)

Turns out, it’s frowned upon for the general population to diagnose personality disorders and mental health issues. Supposedly we “don’t have the training” and can be “overeager” and “under informed”. I’ve also heard “OMG Sarah, just drink your milk tea and shut up about how tingling in the extremities can be a symptom of conversion disorder”.


Treating mental health issues isn’t so different from writing. You don’t need a fancy English degree to write a novel. Plenty of amazing novels have been written by plumbers and spies and housewives and botanists and small children. Likewise, humans in all kinds of professions can spot someone suffering from capgras syndrome from a mile away.

(Amateur psychologists tend to have good vision — it helps with diagnosing from a distance.)

There’s currently a shortage of mental health professionals in the United States. There’s currently an overabundance of people who should really see a shrink. Considering how booked up they are these days, you’d think psychologists would be happy for a little help!

But nooooo….


Also worth pointing out — millions of people suffering from mental health issues will never make an appointment with a therapist because of the stigma attached. Others don’t have insurance or access to a local professional.

I’ve targeted this as an area where amateurs can do a lot of good. We’re out here on the streets, interacting with all sorts of different people. We can get into places a therapist wouldn’t normally go. Like Chuck E. Cheeses and the illegal gambling lounge in my cousin’s basement. (Lots of head cases there.)

Maybe you’re skeptical, because you still buy into the notion that one must be overly qualified to mess around in the brains of other people.

Consider who propagates that messaging and who it benefits.

Still unconvinced?

Consider the following conversation (that I made up) as an example of how an amateur psychologist might interact with a prototypical human. Notice how the pain and suffering of the prototypical human is eased by interacting with the amateur psychologist.

PH: Hey fart breath! You parked in my spot!

AP: Hello sir. You seem very angry. Is something troubling you?

PH: Damn right I’m angry! This is my parking spot!

AP: True as that may be, I’d love to take a moment to talk with you. Everything moves so quickly these days and no one ever has the time for genuine connections anymore. Don’t you agree?

PH: You’re making me late for work!

AP: Do you typically find yourself experiencing a lot of emotions when you’re running late?

PH: When there’s a danger of getting fired, hell yeah, I do!

AP: It sounds like your job gives you a lot of stress.

PH: Oh buddy, let me tell you. That ain’t the half of it. My boss treats me like a used napkin, always telling me how “the guy before you was better” and “you smell like a urinal” and “I’m sleeping with your wife”. It’s such an abusive environment that I spend all day long picking at the skin around my fingernails and stealing all the scissors in the office.

AP: And you let him treat you like that?

PH: Well, the health insurance is pretty good.

AP: Is it possible he reminds you of your father? And you’re still hoping for your father’s approval?

PH: (starts weeping)

AP: (pats PH comfortingly)

PH: My God. I never thought of that. Why didn’t he love me?

AP: Just because your father didn’t love you doesn’t mean you aren’t worthy of love.

PH: I think I want to be a forest ranger.

AP: I believe in you.

PH: This has been the most significant conversation of my life.

AP: You’re welcome.

PH: Thank you. I’m going to go home and hug my wife and children.

AP: Also you’re exhibiting some pretty strong symptoms of bipolar disorder, so you might want to invest some time into googling that.

Some of you are probably wondering why I don’t go back to school and get an actual psychology degree if mental health is something I’m interested in (and obviously very skilled at).

Haha! Where did I give you the impression that I’m a wealthy person? Let me assure you, all the stones in my fancy jewelry are fake. Also, I’m not convinced degrees are necessary. A few years ago I bought a dance degree and it hasn’t gotten me any of the respect I deserve. So I’m going to save my money for avocados and thrift store jewelry, if that’s quite all right with you.

I expect this amateur psychologist thing will work out well if I can just get a few more people on board. It’s likely we’ll get a lot of pushback in the first few months. That happens for most ideas that go against conventional wisdom. But someone has to be revolutionary if we’re going to fix the world!

Eventually people will see the wisdom in it. By next year they’ll be giving me the Carl Jung Award for Amateur Psychologists.

I can hardly wait!

Let’s get out there and diagnose the world!

Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, think about following me on twitter. Also worth checking out:

Engaged in inadvisable wordsmitheries and other creative acts.

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