May 21, 2024

How Social Media Influence How We Self-Diagnose

By Hannah Kim

Since social media plays a massive part in our life these days, social media also contributes to the mental health that we deal with every day. It is good because we spread mental health awareness and want to recognize the daily diagnosis that people struggle with. But one of the trends that we see in social media is self-diagnosing. While self-diagnosing can help people identify how they feel and what they’re struggling with, it’s also a grey area where people seek incorrect treatment for diagnoses they have assessed based on social media content.

Social media influencers often post content exaggerating symptoms or overlooking the actual cause of these symptoms, which leads children, teens, and young adults to self-diagnose, particularly with personality disorders. One of the common personality disorders that I have been seeing is ADHD. A couple of people have talked to me about their behavior associated with ADHD. On the positive side, it’s amazing to watch these people become aware of their behavior and normalize their mental health by openly talking about these symptoms related to ADHD. However, getting lost in the social media mental health realm is easy when you connect with every sign you see on Tiktok, Instagram, etc.

Without specialized diagnoses from mental health professors, self-diagnosis can be complex and difficult to identify correctly. If you experience anxiety, how could you determine that you have generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, or separation anxiety disorder? And how could you know that you are experiencing anxiety in the first place? 

People deserve to be seen and heard. But to be seen and heard is to get acknowledgment from professionals such as physicians, psychiatrists, and counselors. Social media isn’t the best approach to finding and developing the appropriate type of treatment. It’s filled with inaccurate conclusions that further complicate a person’s self-diagnosis. Unfortunately, only about 34% of people report their diagnosis correctly. To self-diagnose, both creators and consumers should proceed with caution. It’s always important to notify people that self-diagnose isn’t diagnostic. 

People want to know what’s happening to them; they want to know what they’re experiencing. Awareness of your mental health reduces the misconceptions and stigma you encounter daily. Yet, we should also bring attention to not reaching for a diagnosis that could put you in danger. 

The bottom line is that it’s important to take your mental health seriously and actively seek answers for yourself. But with so much misleading content you see on social media, it’s better to speak to a professional to confirm your findings. This step could make a difference in your wellness and quality of life. 

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7 thoughts on “How Social Media Influence How We Self-Diagnose

  1. I have several disabilities, including ADHD. I find social media content easy to send to friends and family to explain how I am feeling/seeing the world. Another common one that gets self-diagnosed that I have is Autism. It is great to see both diagnoses become more talked about and less taboo, but we still have a long way to go. I think that self-diagnosis can be valid, assuming beyond just watching social media content but reading the news and medical sources, among others.

  2. I agree entirely with your thoughts on self-diagnosing and how social media can impact our mental health. While it is significant that social media contributes to mental health awareness, self-diagnosing can be a double-edged sword, as it can lead to incorrect treatment for diagnoses based on content found on social media platforms. The problem is exacerbated by social media influencers exaggerating symptoms or overlooking the actual cause of these symptoms, which can lead to people misinterpreting their mental health conditions. It’s crucial to remember that only qualified mental health professionals can diagnose mental health disorders. Self-diagnosis should be taken cautiously, and seeking professional help for appropriate treatment is essential.

  3. Thanks for this perspective Hannah. I think this is such an interesting topic. Health trends, influencer marketing and misinformation can make it so difficult to tell whats real. On the other hand I think social media could be a great tool for spreading and consuming health information if used correctly.

  4. I completely agree with your viewpoint on this topic. Because I am on social media frequently, I see so many videos on TikTok and Instagram where people are sharing health related information about a specific disorder or disability. Many people find it easy and convenient to look up why they are feeling a certain way and being able to get a quick answer from someone on social media seems like a temporary solution. Being an over-thinker myself and having anxiety, I understand the urge to look up symptoms and what they mean, but it is by no means the correct way to go about things and not everyone on the internet can be trusted.

  5. I completely agree that social media can be a double-edged sword when it comes to mental health. While it has the power to spread awareness and reduce stigma, it can also lead to self-diagnosing and incorrect treatment. It’s crucial that people understand the importance of seeking professional help for mental health issues rather than relying solely on social media content. Self-diagnosing can be a slippery slope, and it’s important to remember that mental health diagnoses should only come from licensed mental health professionals. While it’s helpful to be aware of the symptoms of different disorders, it’s not enough to diagnose yourself based on what you see on social media. In addition, it’s important to keep in mind that mental health is complex, and there is often overlap in symptoms between different disorders. This is why it’s crucial to seek a professional diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to your individual needs. Ultimately, the key takeaway is that while social media can provide valuable information and support for mental health, it should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional help. Seeking help from a licensed mental health professional can make a significant difference in your mental health and overall quality of life.

  6. Hi Hannah!
    I actually recently did a research assignment on the effects of social media when it comes to self-diagnosing. It makes sense that social media continues to be a place for individuals to share their experiences and knowledge that we have. We can learn from each other for sure. But then there’s also the aspect that concerns if we’re basing our actions and thoughts on fact or misinformation. While the stigma surrounding mental health declines and the conversation surrounding it continues to increase, the effort to do what’s best for yourself will prevail, and checking with licensed professionals is important!

  7. This was really interesting to read and I didn’t know that the accuracy rate of self diagnosis was so low. I think you provided a balanced perspective on a sensitive issue and I wonder how the online conversation about mental health will continue to evolve.

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