The Harm of Self-Diagnosis on Social Media

self diagnose

The Harm of Self-Diagnosis on Social Media

It is common for teens to joke about “being a hypochondriac” when it comes to making a self-diagnosis of their headache as a brain tumor based on WebMD results, but, in this scenario, they often know that they realistically probably don’t have cancer. The line becomes blurrier when they relate to a checklist of anxiety symptoms that they see online. It is more realistic that they might struggle with anxiety if their symptoms have affected their day-to-day functioning. However, it is possible that their “excessive worrying” is proportionately related to normal stressors in their lives or that their “social withdrawal” is just due to being an introvert. 

Self-diagnosing on social media can lead to exaggerating symptoms or overlooking the true cause of these symptoms. It also normalizes symptoms that can be debilitating for people that actually struggle with mental health issues, like anxiety disorders.  

Psychoeducation on Social Media 

While the use of technology can give teenagers access to heavier topics and inappropriate information, it can also be used as a platform to connect with other people who are struggling and to role model recovery. Many people use social media to open up the conversation about the prevalence of mental illness in society, especially in teenagers and send the message that sometimes it’s okay to not feel okay.

There is a growing number of life coach influencers on platforms like Instagram and TikTok that are not trained professionals. While they can give recommendations for healthier habits and raise awareness about legitimate clinical diagnoses, the content that they produce is not a substitute for seeking professional help. The rise of conversations about self-care can be misinterpreted as advocating Do-It-Yourself Mental Health Care, which is often not the intention. 

The Risks of Self-Diagnosis

Anyone who tries to self-diagnose will have a biased perception of what they think they will be diagnosed with.

This is particularly true of teenagers who have a tendency to overestimate what other people might think of them, known as the imaginary audience personal fable. This may translate to “I’m awkward around people I don’t know, they must think I have social anxiety” or “I sleep until the afternoon on weekends, my parents must think I’m depressed.”

While there is nothing wrong with gathering information about issues that they are struggling with online, teens should be more aware of the effect of using a mental health label to describe normal teen stressors. Labeling themselves an alcoholic for drinking with friends on the weekends or believing they have PTSD after being bullied in middle school can lead to manifesting symptoms of these disorders that they may not have developed otherwise. 

The Value of a Formal Assessment

We believe that the more comprehensive a mental health assessment is, the more accurate the diagnosis is. Checking off boxes on an online quiz or reading an article and resonating with the narrator’s struggles does not offer adequate insight into how your teen’s mental health affects their daily life. 

At ViewPoint Center, the first step to an effective long-term treatment plan is knowledge of your child’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Observations of your child in school, therapy, activities, and a residential environment helps us form a complete picture of their needs and strengths. 

Many teens come to our program having done their own research online about what they think they should be diagnosed. We take self-reports and parent interviews into account when coming up with an accurate diagnosis, but also utilize multiple other diagnostic tools, including:

  • Psychiatric evaluations
  • Psychosocial assessments
  • Family Systems assessments
  • Health and Physical assessments
  • Nutritional screen assessments
  • Self-harm screen assessments
  • Psychological and Neurological assessments
  • Medical evaluations

ViewPoint Center Can Help 

ViewPoint Center is a specialty hospital for teens who struggle with depression and other mental health issues. ViewPoint Center a comprehensive therapeutic assessment facility that is licensed and provides 24-hour nursing. Viewpoint offers comprehensive assessments. Post evaluation, treatment plans are established to meet the unique needs of each student. By the end of the treatment period at ViewPoint, families have a clear understanding of the child’s diagnoses and are offered full guidance on how to move forward and seek proper treatment. ViewPoint Center is dedicated to helping students and their families seek the treatment and care they need to lead happy and healthy lives.

Contact us at 855-290-9682 for more information. We can help your family today!


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