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Why is it so hard to get a diagnosis?

Updated: Nov 15, 2022

Isabella Santoro

Photography Editor

Image via cottonbro studio/

I know I’m not the only one who has struggled trying to get a diagnosis for certain disabilities or mental health concerns. Whether it is because doctors aren’t believing their patients or because patients can’t get appointments or tests for a diagnosis. It’s a difficult experience to go through when you’re not able to be diagnosed or get tested for a disorder you may have.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out a survey that shows nearly 63% of young adults have had at least one symptom of depression or anxiety. This was a survey that came out in regards to mental health during the pandemic, which poses the question of why so many people feel these symptoms but aren’t getting diagnosed or taking medication.

Doctors may not pay attention to the concerns that parents have for their children and try to reassure them. This leads to either a misdiagnosis or none at all. This can carry on into their early adulthood or even longer, leading to them either never getting a diagnosis or getting one later in life.

This can be detrimental to a young adult’s life. If they aren’t able to get a diagnosis, they may have trouble day to day and in school, especially if they have a behavioral disorder. Having a 504, which is a behavioral plan for students with ADHD, is extremely beneficial to create a stable school and learning environment. Kids and young adults need to be able to have a diagnosis in order for them to get the proper treatment for learning disabilities they may have.

As well, if a young adult is struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety or any other mental health disorder, it will affect how they go through day-to-day activities: school, work and relationships with their families and friends. This is an especially important topic for college-aged students who need to be able to focus on work and school at the same time. They need to be able to get a diagnosis in a timely fashion and access to therapy or medication if they so choose.

Mental Health America says 57% of adults in this country do not receive treatment for a mental health disorder. That is an insane amount, but also not surprising when taking into account that so many people are not even getting a diagnosis. Whether it’s because people can’t afford treatment or are embarrassed to see a doctor, these issues must be solved.

One way that we can help students and young adults get a diagnosis and then proper treatment is to make sure that they’re getting regular check ups with their primary care physicians. There needs to be a lift in the stigma of embarrassment around having a mental health disorder. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 of all Americans live with a mental health disorder. So, people should understand that this is common and nothing to be ashamed about. As well, we need to make therapy and medications more accessible for people.

The insane costs of both make it extremely difficult for people to get the medication and treatment they need. Even tests for mental health concerns sometimes cost money that people don’t have. The cost of medication alone is insane and some of them cost in the thousands, which I would assume most college students can’t afford. People will forgo medication in order to save money, and therefore a lot of people don’t get diagnosed.

As well, many doctors aren’t taking their patients as seriously as they should. They will tell their patients and their parents or guardians that they do not have any issues even if they do. I have seen so many people get tested very late in their childhood only to not get the treatment they needed when they were in school. To close this gap, and get young adults diagnosed, we need to release the stigma around mental health concerns and start to have more faith in and understand our youth. If someone you know or love is struggling, reach out to them. That might be what they need.


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