The problem with self-diagnosing mental illnesses

Miriam Santos, Staff Writer

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdown served as a period of self-reflection and self-care for many, which has aided in the increase of mental health awareness recently. Although the discussion surrounding mental health is a net positive, social media has made it easier for misinformation about mental health to spread, leading to some users falsely diagnosing themselves with mental illnesses.

The simplification of symptoms has caused some young adults to falsely believe that they suffer from a mental illness due to a lack of knowledge about the individuality of symptoms. Mental disorders such as autism, ADHD, depression, and anxiety are a few that are commonly misrepresented. OCD is an example of oversimplification: its symptoms have been reduced to perfectionist tendencies and neat freak behavior. In reality, some people with OCD erroneously need to fulfill the thoughts they have — or something horrific may happen to them or their loved ones. The undermining of the actual symptoms of OCD and what really goes through a person’s mind with the disorder is contrary to the set simplification.

Influencers who misinform others on mental health typically aren’t experts on the subject. The internet allows non-professionals to gain a larger audience without as many barriers. Other influencers are medical students and mental health researchers who lack the credentials and insight to give mental health advice. Raquel Olsson, TV anchor and host for CCTV News Culture Express, is one of the many underqualified influencers on TikTok infamous for spreading mental health information. Her videos, dating back to 2020, have a variety of “psychology facts” and mental disease symptoms.

While some information on TikTok may be accurate in a general sense, it is not personalized to each individual who views the content. Many mental illnesses have similar symptoms; depression and bipolar disorder both experience periods of intense lows, causing one to feel hopeless, worthless, or even suicidal. Confusing one for the other could be very dangerous when attempting to receive professional treatment.

Self-diagnosing is usually rooted in someone exaggerating symptoms or misjudging other diseases, convincing someone that they have a certain mental illness. Coming quickly to a conclusion on a mental illness could hide the true cause of the symptoms, whether it be an underlying disease or an obsession with having a mental illness. Some diseases that reflect similar symptoms to some mental illnesses include chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease, and thyroid disorder. Misinterpreting these diseases and ignoring the true cause of one’s symptoms may result in your condition further worsening.

Rather than turning to TikTok for mental health guidance, seek out professional help. Getting help from professionals can be a real eye-opener as they are working with each person individually, looking at the uniqueness of their situation in the context of their symptoms.