The dangers of self diagnosis

Alexandra Wong, Entertainment Editor

The rise of TikTok in recent years has created a personalized and accessible platform for teens to more openly discuss their struggles and experiences with mental health. However, any amount of TikTok is not nearly enough time for a teen to be properly versed in mental health issues, and certainly not enough for a safe diagnosis. While necessary in some circumstances, self diagnoses can be incredibly dangerous and should not be taken lightly.

Social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok have gained tremendous popularity among teens in recent times, propelling this phenomenon of self diagnosing. Content creators and influencers are on the forefront of these apps, opening up and rapidly spreading the discussion of mental illnesses and neurodivergence. These social media platforms have created a safe space for people, especially those who are neurodivergent or struggling with their mental health, to learn about and discuss mental health. However, in the process of destigmatizing the discussion of mental health, it’s become something of a trend or glorified aesthetic.

Trends such as the “sad girl” aesthetic have recently gained tremendous popularity on TikTok, Instagram and Pinterest after originating on Tumblr in the 2010s. The “sad girl” aesthetic depicts the perfect picture of a beautiful young woman, made even more desirable by her pain. While trends like these may have begun as a sincere protest against silent suffering, they have turned into ignorant performance, completely glorifying mental illness and discouraging recovery.

“As someone with Tourette’s it’s the worst thing to see people faking something that you struggle with,” Evan Stearns (’24) said.

In some cases, self diagnosis is the only accessible option if those suffering from a mental condition do not have the means or support to seek a professional medical diagnosis. Additionally, an important first step in getting a professional diagnosis is sometimes recognizing your symptoms and exploring the possibility of certain conditions. However, this is not the reality for many self-diagnosing teens. The instantaneousness of social media has pushed this phenomenon to a point where teens will see a 30-second clip about common symptoms of ADHD, relate to one of them and self diagnose themselves with ADHD with no further research or medical opinion.

“When you self-diagnose, you are essentially assuming that you know the subtleties that diagnosis constitutes,” Srini Pillay, past Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, wrote in an article for Psychology Today. “This can be very dangerous, as people who assume that they can surmise what is going on with themselves may miss the nuances of diagnosis.”

Incorrect self-diagnoses can potentially lead to mistreatment and worsening of symptoms as many mental health issues are littered with subtleties that are rarely expressed on social media and teens must be careful to consider these subtleties in order to safely give an accurate self-diagnosis.