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The Harm of Self-Diagnosis on Social Media

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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.

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