“Safe to Self-Diagnose?”

By: Abbie Millman


Mental health issues are no joke, and, unfortunately, there are many people that are experiencing them first hand at this very moment. While some seek professional help to improve their mental health, not everyone (especially during the pandemic) are able to access such resources, especially medical treatment.


Many feel as though there is nowhere to turn, which makes the most attractive option at first is to self-diagnose. The concern is, however, does self-diagnosing provide a reliable means of facing these issues? Is it even safe for that matter?


Starting at the very beginning, what does the term “self-diagnose” even mean? When someone self-diagnoses, they will, as the name suggests, diagnose themselves as being afflicted with a certain medical condition, illness, problem, etc. Considering that anyone can self-diagnose, the method is far from accurate compared to a diagnosis by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other medical professionals that spend over eight years in medical school. Again comparing a decade of education to a quick internet search, the scale is dramatically tipped to the prior.


Self-diagnosing is something that many people, including celebrities, have brought to the surface, whether they are addressing it or doing it themselves. Probably the most infamous of all, Trisha Paytas, popular youtuber with 4.8+ million subscribers, has been the most criticized. By no means does she represent all instances of self diagnosing (especially considering her financial situation), but she does make many of us question the concept of self-diagnosing itself.


Adding to the craziness of this year, Trisha (who claimed to have “retired” from Youtube as of March 12, 2020) uploaded a 20 minute youtube video titled “MEET MY ALTERS”. In that video, she introduced her viewers to her alternate personalities - T, Tierney, Trixie, Tyson, and Tobolter. She also claimed to have multiple personality disorder and dissociative identity disorder (even though MPD and DID are the same condition). This is just one of the multiple mental illnesses she has claimed to have throughout the past.


Not only are people self-diagnosing, but people (especially celebrities) are often diagnosed from afar by people that follow them. Whether this means trying to piece together the mind of Kanye West or dissecting the brain of a mass shooter, things can get messy real quick. When people self diagnose from afar, it can often inspire others to self diagnose. The fact is, the internet often provides the furthest extremes of diagnosis, best demonstrated in the instance where the term “brain tumor” will come up after searching “headache”, a fact that has been proven by researchers. Shainna Ali, a mental health clinician and advocate, advocates for how dangerous self-diagnosing can be, as it can lead to not getting help or self medicating for what is really just a misdiagnosis.


As mental health becomes increasingly visible and decreasingly stigmatized, the internet becomes more and more of a heavily relied upon resource. While there are many dangers to self diagnosis, there are also benefits that researching and seeking help on your own can provide. The internet being so easily accessible, it becomes easier for people to treat their symptoms on a daily basis, such as symptoms of anxiety. When people are posting content that is based on mental health, they often have to be careful that it is structured around self-help rather than treatment of diagnoses.


Seeming to cause more harm than help, I personally see self-diagnosis as an awful form of diagnosis. At the end of the day, we have professionals for a reason. If the internet really was a reliable source, then the term “psychologist” would be outdated, and there would be a system of purchasing prescription drugs straight from the pharmacy instead of going to a psychiatrist. That hypothetical scenario right there demonstrates how scary a misdiagnosis could be. Additionally, if self-diagnosis became normalized, then we should expect numbers of addiction to prescription drugs to sky rocket.


While I applaud society for being more open and willing to discuss topics of mental health, I don’t see any good reason why people should be encouraged to look up the term “tiredness”, walking away thinking they have a heart disease or diabetes (which is something that will actually come when searching the term on the internet). Although people cry for the term “financial situation” to be considered, many people that self diagnose are actually perfectly capable of seeking medical treatment. Those who cannot afford it, however, easily dig themselves into a deeper hole by throwing away money on treatment that they read about online, which ends up being more harmful than helpful.


This predicament is not so much about “what people consider offensive”—in the world of self diagnosis (Trisha Paytas and more)—as it is about “what is really safe”. If people are struggling and they are seeking self-help through the internet, then by all means, alleviate the stress that you carry from Junior year finals (trendy Instagram self-help accounts and all). For the sake of your own health though, please see a professional for treatment, diagnosis, and/or anything else that will help you in serious manners.



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Sources


Brinkhurst-Cuff, Charlie. “The Benefits and Dangers of Self-Diagnosing Your Mental Health Online.” Dazed, 18 May 2018, www.dazeddigital.com/life-culture/article/40076/1/self-diagnosis-mental-health-anxiety-online.


Dodgson, Lindsay. “Diagnosing the Mental Health of Celebrities from Afar Is Damaging and Dangerous.” Insider, Insider, 21 July 2020, www.insider.com/diagnosing-mental-health-celebrities-from-afar-damaging-2018-11.


Duribe, Jazmin. “Trisha Paytas Defends Self-Diagnosing Herself with Dissociative Identity Disorder.” PopBuzz, PopBuzz, 16 Mar. 2020, www.popbuzz.com/internet/youtubers/trisha-paytas-dissociative-identity-disorder-video/.


Foundations Recovery Network. “Issues and Dangers of Self-Diagnosis.” Dual Diagnosis, dualdiagnosis.org/dual-diagnosis-treatment/dangers-self-diagnosis/.