A Challenge with Social Media: Self-Diagnosing Mental Health

March 26, 2021

There is a popular trend right now of utilizing social media platforms, particularly TikTok, where influencers post content leading children, teens, and young adults to self-diagnose, particularly with personality disorders. As therapy providers, we have seen an influx of people seeking treatment for personality disorders they have assessed and diagnosed for themselves based on social media content.

Anyone can pose as whoever they want to be on the internet. A doctor, a therapist, some other type of medical professional. Younger people are quick to believe what they see on the internet without doing further research. Many teens and young adults report their source of information is YouTube videos. Since it is posted online, it must be true, right?

On the positive side, it is amazing to watch as mental health awareness is being brought to life, and normalizing mental health is growing more popular amongst younger generations. Mental health awareness has especially grown during the pandemic as many people may be realizing things about themselves that were not so obvious as before. Because we have spent increased time in isolation, where we have focused much more on our thoughts, behaviors, patterns, and interactions with others. Unfortunately, this has taken a toll for some and we have seen depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation grow significantly during this time.

It’s easy to get lost in a Google hole and start relating with every symptom you see, which can cause increased anxiety. The growing anxiety could be covering something else that may be going on. Self-diagnosing can be seen as a step towards the direction of acknowledging and getting help, but we want to encourage working alongside a professional who has vast knowledge and experience working on mental health and understands medical conditions. These are professionals including physicians, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, psychologist, social workers, and counselors that can help sort through symptoms read or heard about online, and what is going on in your life.  It is okay to explore and learn more about what you may be going through on your own, but you always want the professional opinion of a trained, licensed person to confirm or help identify what is causing you concern. You want to find a professional whom you trust and who is able to spend the amount of time you need to work together to develop the appropriate type of treatment. Mental health diagnoses are treated in many different ways and those trained professionals can help guide you to what feels best for you.

Diagnoses themselves can be complex and difficult to identify correctly, especially without specialized training. Mental health professionals study diagnoses to understand how and why they develop and we are trained to help identify what is going on for different individuals. So while it is okay to explore online to bring awareness and knowledge to what you may be experiencing, please seek out professional help and develop a plan with your medical professional.

One suggestion when looking for reliable information on the internet is to utilize sites such as the following:

  • Those ending with the suffix “.gov,” as they’re sponsored by the federal government
  • Sites ending with “.edu,” as they’re run by medical schools or universities
  • Sites that end with “.org,” as they’re maintained by not-for-profit organizations
  • Scientific journals or medical journals

When you have identified symptoms online, you can utilize these to start a conversation with your medical professional. This can be a great starting point in getting you the help you may need.

Written by: Meaghan Warner, LCSW