I recently answered this question on Quora.
Do Psychologists Make their Patients Aware of the Diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Sociopathy?
These personality disorders seem to carry a lot of social stigma, therefore are patients made aware of their diagnosis or does the therapist just continue behavioral therapy to treat the symptoms rather than informing them of the diagnosis?
I am not a psychologist. I am a counselor. I only work with one disorder, OCD, and I can quite accurately diagnose that condition, I assure you. Nevertheless, I am not allowed to give out legal DSM diagnoses. However, I can obviously give out my opinion on a diagnosis. I can also tell the person my opinion on what they do not have. For instance, I have gotten many clients with OCD who have been misdiagnosed with some sort of psychosis. I am an expert at telling the two apart. I simply tell them that in my opinion, they are not psychotic. Then I tell them to fire your clinician and go get a new one that will recognize the difference between OCD and psychosis (many clinicians are very poor at telling these apart).
Other than OCD/psychosis, I also have to make differential dx on OCD/sociopathy, violent thoughts, etc., OCD/pedophilia, pedophilic thoughts, etc. and OCD/homosexuality. In a limited number of cases, I told clients that in my opinion, they did not have OCD but instead had some psychotic disorder, or sociopathic traits, or pedophilia, or that they were homosexuals. Most of this differential dx is pretty straightforward.
I have never had any narcissistic clients, God forbid clients with NPD. One thing nice about working with OCD clients is that they are usually very nice people. Not all of them, mind you. But if they are not nice, there is often some other reason, for instance, Borderline Personality Disorder in an OCD client could possibly make them impossibly vicious, cruel, unstable, not to mention extremely crazy, far crazier than any OCD sufferer ever gets.
OCD by its very nature strikes nice people. The fact that they are so nice, meek and kind is actually one of the main reasons that they have the disorder in the first place! For the most part, only nice people get it, and the nicer you are, the more likely you are to get it. I will leave it at that for the moment and give you a chance to think of why that might be. I know why but it goes beyond the scope of this post at the moment.
But in general, I never even give my opinion on other anxiety disorders or on any mood disorders or personality disorders. I only rarely see clients who have psychotic disorders, and the two that I have seen were already diagnosed. I also very rarely see people with personality disorders, and the few that I have seen were all females with Borderline PD diagnoses. I did see one woman for two sessions with obvious Borderline Personality Disorder, but I had not figured it out yet in the first session, and by the second session, I declined to diagnose her. She has already been diagnosed by a psychiatrist from afar anyway. So apparently I am guilty of failing to dx a Borderline PD client.
The session was about her OCD, not her BPD and she was very nice through the whole session. It would have ruined the whole thing if I told her she had BPD, and I doubt if she would have accepted it anyway. At any rate, I am not allowed to give legal dx’s anyway, so it’s apparently proper for me not to diagnose someone!
That only comes up if there is differential diagnosis. I simply say that I not only can I not legally give these out but that I am not qualified to work with any condition other than OCD, which I can actually work very well with. If they want me to work on their depression or whatever, I tell them that I have no expertise or training in that area so I can guarantee nothing and it would be similar to talking to a friend or family member.
If I were able to give out diagnoses, I think I would simply give them out in most every case. Possibly if it might make a suicidal patient go over the edge, I might decline to give one out. But I will disagree with the clinicians below. In my opinion, physicians and other medical professionals in addition to all licensed clinicians should give out whatever diagnosis is appropriate. I feel it is a moral matter. The patient or client is simply owed a diagnosis on the part of the clinician or MD and I feel it would be remiss of the clinician or MD not to tell the patient what is wrong with them, and I mean everything that is wrong with them.
This is just my personal opinion and I believe there no ethical rules on the subject. Also I respect the clinicians below for not giving out diagnoses in cases where it would not be helpful. I simply feel that this is a case were morals or even the categorical imperative trumps pragmatics or even common sense.