“You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
if you’ve a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You’ll make your real friends,
Those cunning folks use any means
To achieve their ends.” – Sorting Hat, J.K. Rowling
Minus the telepathy, being diagnosed with a mental illness is similar to being sorted into a Hogwarts house in many ways. Both are defined through an understanding of the general characteristics of the disorder/house. Obviously, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is slightly more scientific than the sorting hat but the impact is similar. Also, both can be incredibly stressful.
Through a series of questions (or mind-reading), the psychiatrist’s (or sorting hat’s) discretion, and your life experiences, you are given a diagnosis (placed in a house). One of the benefits of being diagnosed/ sorted, is that you are able to identify with others with the same label. Ideally, this helps you to understand yourself better and feel the support of a community.
1. However, just because you were diagnosed/ sorted a particular way doesn’t mean that’s the only label you carry. Harry Potter is much more than a Gryffindor, just like I am much more than my PTSD. This is just one of the many ways I define myself. I am also a woman, a daughter, a sister, an academic, a leader, a vegan, and a yogi.
2. Individuals with the same diagnosis/ house may look and behave differently. Harry, Ron and Hermione are wildly different from one another, despite being Gryffindors. Likewise, I may look bigger or smaller than someone else living with an eating disorder. It’s my actions that determine my eating disorder, not my weight. Also, there can be differences in the actions themselves (binging, purging, restricting, etc.).
3. Your family influences your diagnosis/ house. Malfoy was destined to be Slytherin just as Ron was to be Gryffindor. Many mental illnesses have genetic and environmental influences and often, mental illness runs in the family. That being said, this is not a guarantee and there are exceptions (despite his family history, Sirius Black was sorted into Gryffindor).
4. And just because someone is diagnosed/sorted to a house, doesn’t mean that they match the stereotype. Not all Slytherins are destined for darkness just like not all those diagnosed with schizophrenia are violent (although statistically, there are many more evil Slytherins than there are violent individuals with schizophrenia). Making assumptions about someone’s entire character based solely on their diagnosis is stigmatizing.
5. Finally, nothing is perfect. There is subjectivity in being diagnosed and sorted. It is possible to sway the DSM-5 just as Harry swayed the hat. Although the DSM-5 doesn’t explicitly take into account individuals’ beliefs, it can be influenced by them. The results should be provided by a trained professional (psychiatrist or psychologist/ sorting hat) and be interpreted with care.
It is important to remember that no one house is “better” than the other, just like no diagnosis is better than the other. If you have been recently diagnosed and are struggling to manage this new part of your identity, reach out for help. In my experience, most mental health professionals are much more supportive than Percy Weasley.
Image Rights & Credits: Warner Bros.