Episode 110

110 — Pathologizing Normal: The Lure of Identity Labels & Diagnoses

Published on: 14th April, 2023

It seems like, in Western culture at least, we went from a place where, years ago, mental health issues were never talked about and often dismissed or hushed, to a place today, where it’s so ubiquitous to talk about mental health. And while it’s important that mental health is de-stigmatized, and a good thing that it’s been relatively de-pathologized, in many ways, it has shifted into some kind of identity marker, almost like a sense of identity for people. Mental health categories are becoming a way for people to seek and find meaning about who they are as a person. But this can be dangerous in that people are so much more than just the labels affiliated with their mental health.

With the growing absence of religious and national identities, other identities have come into place in extraordinary ways. In this episode, Sasha and Stella explore society’s evolving tendency to rush to medicalize for quick and radical fixes for generally normal experiences. They discuss obsession with identity labels, the desperate pathologizing of normal distress, medication seeking, and relentless pursuit of the external solution for an internal problem.

Please note this episode was recorded before the release of Stella’s book (which she speaks about being released “soon”). The link for where you can find her book is included below. This episode was also recorded before Detrans Awareness Day 2023 took place, but was released after the events referenced in the episode. Please visit https://youtu.be/my5o0B9H4Tw to watch the replay of the entire 2023 Detrans Awareness Day webinar event.


Genspect’s School Policy Guide: Establishing expectations for how schools can best support students with gender dysphoria, who are gender-questioning, who are gender non-conforming or identify as transgender


The Five Ecological Systems


Interview with Allen Frances, MD: 


Stella’s Latest Book — What Your Teen Is Trying To Tell You


Detrans Awareness Day Website


2023 Detrans Awareness Day Webinar Recording


If you liked this episode, more episodes you might find interesting:

  • “19 — ADHD & Gender Dysphoria”


  • “29 — Conversion Therapy: A Conversation with Bob Withers”


  • “82 — ASD & Gender: Who am I? with Dr. Tony Attwood”


  • “106 — Detransition Awareness: Beyond Identity & Political Narratives’


Please visit http://www.widerlenspod.com to explore more content, access additional resources, or join our listener community.

To learn more about our sponsors, visit:




Extended Notes:

  • Stella stresses the importance of supporting the Detrans Awareness Day events.
  • Sasha defines the term de-transitioner.
  • The crossroads of a mental health diagnosis and identity.
  • Between the ages of 10 and 20, children realize that life can be hard.
  • Treating emotional and psychic distress as a medical condition doesn’t always work.
  • Stella and Sasha discuss ways to handle a diagnosis in a healthy way.
  • Humans are more than a one-dimensional diagnosis.
  • Massive improvements have been made toward mental health awareness.
  • Social media platforms can impact a person’s well-being.
  • Adolescents may be getting through their teenage years but not enjoying them.
  • Stella ponders if there will be an eventual pushback from people living their lives online.
  • The search for community leads people online but then pigeonholes them into certain groups.
  • Stella uses suicide awareness as an example of the issues facing mental health awareness.
  • Consider joining the Patreon community to ask any questions you may have.


“We need public awareness around what is an accepted term for trans, an accepted term for de-trans, and desistance.” — Stella [8:01]

“Getting overly identified with labels can really hinder us.” — Sasha [16:10]

“We are getting more and more fragmented and more and more atomized into me, and my online life. And, that is all I am.” — Stella [49:38]

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About the Podcast

Gender: A Wider Lens Podcast
Two therapists explore the expanding concept of "gender" from a psychological depth perspective.
Gender dysphoria has become a minefield for public discussion, with many afraid to express their views or question the narrative. Our mission is to examine this important and complex topic from a range of perspectives, but always through a psychological lens. By openly considering and examining gender identity, transition, and the transgender umbrella, we hope to give all interested parties permission to engage these fascinating topics with less fear and more honesty. Interviews and discussions will involve clinicians, medical professionals, academics, transgender people, parents, detransitioners and other interesting individuals whose lives have been touched by the concept of gender.

Conversations between two practicing therapists give listeners an opportunity to contemplate gender from a depth perspective not currently taken up in most of today’s accessible debates. As a result of their work with gender dysphoric therapy clients as well as their personal divergent experiences with gender, Stella and Sasha hold a refreshing and informed perspective.

Is gender identity a facilitation of development and expression of creativity, or can it be a defense against painful existential realities of living in a human body? What can we discover about masculinity, femininity, identity, gender performance, and sexuality when we peer beneath the surface and dive into a deeper psychological exploration? What is the relationship between body, mind, identity, culture, and psyche?

This podcast engages listeners in an intimate and fascinating behind-the-scenes inquiry about a topic as taboo as it is salient today.

Thank you to our sponsors:
Genspect - an international organization which offers an alternative to WPATH. Providing a range of education, resources and supports to anyone impacted by gender distress, Genspect unites many different organizations globally, and gives voice to 1,000s of previously untold stories. For more info, visit genspect.org.

GETA - an association of therapists who believe that individuals experiencing gender related concerns ought to be treated using a whole person approach. GETA connects like minded clinicians, provides educational resources and trainings, and helps people with gender dysphoria find support. For more info, visit genderexploratory.com.
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About your hosts

Stella O'Malley

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Stella O’Malley is a psychotherapist and author who works in private practice in Ireland. Her work focuses on parenting, family dynamics and working with teenagers.

Much of Stella’s counselling and writing focuses on mental health and the importance of well-being and she is a regular contributor to the media. She is also the resident psychotherapist for the current TV series, Raised by the Village, a family programme that helps troubled teenagers reconnect with themselves and their families.

Stella's first book, Cotton Wool Kids, was released in 2015 while Bully-Proof Kids: Practical tools to help kids grow up confident, resilient and strong was released in 2017. Stella’s latest book Fragile, was released in 2019 and focuses on overcoming anxiety and stress.

Stella was the presenter of the documentary Trans - Kids: It’s Time To Talk broadcast on Channel 4 in November 2018 and she contributed a chapter to the 2019 book, Inventing Transgender Children and Young People.

The Jungian analyst, Lisa Marchiano, and Stella launched Secrets of the Motherworld in September 2019, offering thoughtful exploration of the most intimate aspects of motherhood in a bid to help mothers feel less alone.

Stella is a Clinical Advisor for the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners. She is also the lead facilitator for the Gender Dysphoria Support Network.

Stella holds a B.A. in Counselling and Psychotherapy and a M.A. in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Sasha Ayad

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Sasha Ayad is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works in private practice, and has treated adolescents for over 10 years. Her work focuses on teens and young adults struggling with issues of gender dysphoria and gender identity.

She became interested in the sharp rise in teenagers who declare a trans identity for the first time during adolescence. She discovered, through working with hundreds of families, that many teens were developing gender dysphoria only after adopting a transgender identity. She questions the practice of medical transition for children and teenagers, and her clinical work focuses on developmentally appropriate, least-invasive-first talk therapy.

Sasha is also a founding member and Clinical Advisor in the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners.

Sasha’s previous work experience includes:
- School counselor for middle and high school students at a charter school for underserved communities

- Behavioral therapy with children on the autism spectrum

- Individual and group counseling for women and children impacted by domestic abuse and sexual violence

- Developed and ran the first counseling program at a large state supported living facility for adults with intellectual disability

Sasha holds a B.S. in Psychology and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology.