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El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

DIY diagnoses

Exploring how social media is harmful by causing people to self-diagnose illnesses

After COVID-19, mental health awareness has skyrocketed due to the increase in mental health issues. This is one of many changes we’ve seen post-lockdown. But the supposed “fix” that mental health awareness promises comes with a few downsides, and this new trend links to another problem: self-diagnosing.

When scrolling through social media like Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube, it’s not hard to come across videos that try to spread awareness of mental health disorders by giving information about them. Many people watch these types of videos and proceed to make assumptions about their own mental health. According to Thriveworks, “44% of Americans have diagnosed themselves or someone else with a mental health condition. Besides themselves, some of the most commonly diagnosed people [include] friends (46%), parents (26%), ex-partners (24%), and siblings (24%).” 

@tarahelizabeth_ Warning signs as a teenager that you may have ✨ADHD✨ #adhd #adhdtiktok #adhdadult #adhdinwomen ♬ Beggin’ – Måneskin

Tarah Elizabeth’s viral TikTok with over 763K likes


In a video made by adhd_coach_ryan, a content creator who claims to be an ADHD coach, he lists some symptoms of the disorder. While this information may be accurate and shows some of the milder experiences of ADHD, it gives the wrong impression, causing people to think that they are neurodivergent. This is a clear example of how people make assumptions off of 30-second videos.

A user named beep.beep.beep.x commented on the video, “I literally have ADHD according to this video,” and asked, “What should I do?” 

There are so many more comments on adhd_coach_ryan’s video saying things like “me,” or  “this described my life.” People are making some serious assumptions about their mental health based on a narrow set of symptoms. According to USN, “Mental health conditions are so much more complex than what can be captured by a checklist of symptoms.” 

For example, symptoms of ADHD are described as interrupting others, having bad time management and being easily frustrated. But with those milder symptoms come many other problems. Troubles in daily life, like completing schoolwork, relationships with family and friends and feeling unsafe in the classroom are all prominent things that people diagnosed with ADHD face. A small 30-40-second video does not and cannot cover all of the problems accurately. 

While the videos may be made with good intentions, there are many flaws within the information they provide. For one, they diminish the actual experience of having a mental illness. The information in this video only shows the milder symptoms of the illness, which downplays how agonizing living with it can be. There are many other examples of similar videos circulating on social media. Mental health illnesses can be severe, and these videos can’t properly portray all the ways they affect daily life.

“[…] not all mental illnesses are identical. There are many different types of mental illness, and each has its symptoms, some of which may sometimes overlap or be caused by other disorders.”

— Life Adjustment Team

Most of the symptoms mentioned like interrupting others, having bad time management and being easily frustrated are all things that people without ADHD can also experience. Some of the most severe ADHD symptoms include chronic and extreme restlessness, inability to engage in quiet activities and many more. ADHD will manifest different symptoms in different people, and you can never know for certain if you have a disorder without getting professional medical help. According to the Life Adjustment Team, “[…] not all mental illnesses are identical. There are many different types of mental illness, and each has its symptoms, some of which may sometimes overlap or be caused by other disorders.”

Once someone believes that they show symptoms of certain mental disorders, it’s tough to change their thinking. According to the New Yorker, “confirmation bias” is a state of mind where one is drawn towards the information they believe and reject information that contradicts it. This kind of situation can cause a rift between patients and doctors when the patient tries to diagnose themselves. Trying to self-diagnose can cause one to believe false truths and not accept what a doctor has to say. This can make the condition worse and harder to treat. Medical professionals are the people who are trained for these kinds of illnesses, and overlooking their insight and knowledge is a bad move. Self-diagnosing might just lead to more barriers between the patient and doctor, leading to delayed medical help if you actually need it. By using the internet or social media as a source, finding and trusting false information is a very likely scenario. This can cause harm to your physical health, cause stress and anxiety and cause one to miss an actual medical issue. Making assumptions about your health is dangerous.

Students at MVHS are at a much higher risk of self-diagnosing. According to Forbes, “[A] study found that members of Gen-Z spend a shocking nine hours per day in front of a screen.” This only increases the probability of coming across videos that are spreading awareness for mental health. Especially if these videos are abundant, watching them again and again will only convince someone more that they have an illness. According to the McGovern Medical School, “It’s easy to get lost in a Google hole and start relating with every symptom you see, which can cause increased anxiety. The growing anxiety could be covering something else that may be going on.” 

While being aware of mental illnesses and spreading awareness about them is a good thing to do, making assumptions about your mental health or others is unsafe and diminishes the seriousness of having a mental health problem. 

It may seem easy and tempting to hop onto your phone and watch some videos to figure out what’s wrong, but in reality, the dangers of this prevent one from receiving the right care. If you ever feel like you have a mental illness, rather than coming to a conclusion based on a 30-second video, seek reliable and professional help.

About the Contributor
Niveda Hari, Staff Writer
Niveda is currently a sophomore and a staff writer at El Estoque. In her free time, she enjoys reading, watching Grey's Anatomy and obsessing over Cat Noir. She loves sunsets and trying new foods!
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