Mental Health And The Trend Of Self-Diagnosis
However much you want to be happy with any positive outcome, life will always remind you that “Every coin has two sides”. Similar is the case with growing awareness regarding mental health. It is greatly comforting to see that society as a whole regardless of the socio-economic strata is viewing and accepting mental health as a priority.
On the other hand, this awareness has brought new problems too! People often rely on the internet to understand their symptoms, states, or signs. In the age of the internet, information is just a click away, and this accessibility has brought about a significant shift in how people approach their health concerns; both physical and mental health. The trend of self-diagnosis has become increasingly prevalent, driven by the abundance
of medical information available online.
Today, Let us dwell on the reasons behind the need for self-diagnosis, and its cons(because there are practically no pros to self-diagnosis!.), and most importantly to fight the urge for self-diagnosis and go seek professional help;
The Psychology Behind Self-Diagnosis:
We just want solutions as quickly as possible.
This inquisitiveness of humans is the major psychological reason behind the urge to self-diagnose. It also includes the desire for control, anxiety about our health, and the appeal of quick solutions.
Here are a few other major reasons;
Confirmation Bias: It refers to the tendency of individuals to selectively seek and emphasize information that aligns with their preconceived beliefs or suspicions about their mental health. When experiencing emotional distress, people might unconsciously focus on articles, forums, or testimonials that confirm their perceived condition, while ignoring or downplaying contradictory information.
Normalization: It revolves around the process by which individuals perceive their symptoms as common and relatable experiences, often due to the widespread sharing of personal stories on social media and online platforms. As people encounter accounts from others who express similar emotional struggles, they may start to believe that what they’re feeling is a widespread norm rather than a potential mental health issue.
Accessibility: Easy access to online questionnaires and resources makes self-diagnosis appealing. In a way, thanks to the internet there are many research papers available for free. But, a mere understanding of even research-oriented data doesn’t guarantee the efficacy of self-diagnosis. Also, The complexity of mental health
conditions, often involving overlapping symptoms, necessitates a deep grasp of psychological intricacies, which self-diagnosis might lack.
Limited Knowledge: Limited knowledge about mental health can stem from a variety of sources, such as incomplete or misconstrued information obtained from online articles, social media, or anecdotal accounts. This lack of comprehensive understanding may lead individuals to generalize symptoms or mistake common emotional fluctuations for serious mental health disorders.
Influence of Society on Self-Diagnosis:
What are we humans if not social animals? Intentionally or otherwise, We all crave acceptance from our close society. This primal need sometimes works against us when
When it comes to mental health; Some people completely avoid seeking mental health care for the fear of being labeled by society and the remaining tend to internalize others’ symptoms to feel a sense of belonging to a group.
Celebrity Influence: The candid discussions about mental health by celebrities and public figures have started essential conversations, normalizing the discussion of emotional well-being. However, these discussions can sometimes perpetuate the tendency to self-diagnose by presenting a simplified perspective of complex conditions, leading individuals to believe they align with certain diagnoses.
Media Representations: The portrayal of mental health conditions in movies, TV shows, and literature can play a pivotal role in influencing self-diagnosis. Characters’ behaviors and experiences may resonate with individuals, prompting them to explore these behaviors in their own lives and connect them to mental health conditions.
Influence of Online Communities: Online platforms have given rise to communities where individuals share their mental health experiences. The sense of belonging and relatability within these communities can motivate individuals to draw parallels between their own experiences and those shared by others. This sense of shared struggle can inadvertently lead to self-diagnosis, as individuals seek a label that resonates with their feelings.
Social Comparison and Validation: The desire for validation and a sense of understanding can drive individuals to seek out labels for their experiences. The human need to feel seen and heard can sometimes lead to interpreting symptoms through the lens of readily available mental health terms, inadvertently resulting in self-diagnosis. Social media platforms foster an environment of social comparison. Observing others discussing their mental health struggles can lead individuals to compare their own experiences and emotions, potentially driving them to seek a diagnosis that aligns with what they perceive as common issues.
Drawbacks of Self-Diagnosis:
The potential pitfall of relying solely on online information for any medical conclusions, Is to never seek reliable and professional help. People self-diagnose and wallow in self-pity or fear. If you notice yourself fretting on the signs mentioned below, book an appointment with a psychologist.
Misdiagnosis: It occurs when individuals wrongly attribute their emotional experiences to a specific mental health condition without the expertise required for accurate assessment. This can lead to a cascade of adverse effects, such as pursuing inappropriate treatments, overlooking underlying concerns, and exacerbating distress
due to improper self-treatment.
Anxiety Amplification: It is a consequence of misdiagnosis where individuals, after attributing their emotional experiences to a specific mental health condition, become increasingly preoccupied with their symptoms. This heightened focus can lead to magnification of discomfort, causing a spiral of heightened anxiety and stress.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: It is the internalization of a diagnosis to such an extent that Individuals start unconsciously adopting behaviors and thought patterns associated with that condition. If someone self-diagnoses depression, for instance, they might unintentionally exhibit behaviors that align with the perceived diagnosis, potentially perpetuating their emotional distress.
Masking Underlying Issues: Individuals may become fixated on a specific label for their emotional experiences, inadvertently overlooking more complex or interconnected concerns that may be contributing to their distress. Masking underlying issues through Self-diagnosis can lead to ineffective coping strategies and delayed emotional healing, making it crucial to engage in comprehensive evaluations conducted by trained
Neglect of Professional Help: Though in recent times the conversation around mental health has become less of a taboo topic, people are still reluctant to seek professional help. At the same time, people realize that everything is not fine and they need to get better. In this confusion of needing help and not wanting to go to a certified professional, people often lean towards finding answers for themselves.
Navigating Self-Diagnosis Responsibly:
Relying solely on self-diagnosis can deter individuals from seeking the expert advice of mental health professionals. This neglect can delay appropriate interventions and hinder genuine healing. Here are some practical guidelines for you when you catch yourself turning to the internet for health information;
Reflect on Motivations: It involves introspecting why one is drawn to self-diagnosing. Honest self-inquiry can help us discern whether their motivations stem from genuine concern for well-being or a desire for quick labels. This critical self-awareness aids in approaching emotional experiences with an open mind and can guide us toward seeking professional evaluation when necessary.
Practice Open-Mindedness: Acknowledging that emotional experiences can be multifaceted and require professional insight prevents tunnel vision toward a singular diagnosis. Embracing an open-minded stance encourages receptivity to diverse perspectives and enhances the accuracy of understanding one’s mental well-being.
Embrace Uncertainty: Mental health is often characterized by uncertainty, and feelings can be fluid. Embrace the journey of self-discovery without fixating on immediate answers or labels.
Encourage responsible research: Seek information diligently from reputable sources, such as peer-reviewed articles, mental health organizations, and licensed professionals. Engaging in a thorough exploration of various perspectives and considering the credibility of sources can help you gain a more accurate understanding of emotional experiences, preventing the pitfalls of misinformation and misinterpretation often associated with
Avoiding Label Obsession: Avoid fixating on labels and diagnoses. Instead, focus on understanding your emotional well-being, developing coping strategies, and seeking personal growth.
Manage anxiety and Prioritize Self-Care: Accepting that self-diagnosis can induce anxiety due to uncertainty, individuals can counteract this by practicing relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and seeking support from trusted individuals. Simultaneously, prioritizing self-care through healthy lifestyle choices, emotional outlets, and positive coping mechanisms fosters overall well-being, regardless of whether one identifies with a specific diagnosis.
Seek professional guidance: Although this goes without saying, Trained mental Health experts possess the expertise to conduct comprehensive assessments, distinguishing between normal fluctuations and potential disorders. Collaborating with professionals ensures accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plans, thereby safeguarding against the risks of self-diagnosis’s potential inaccuracies and detrimental consequences.
Prioritizing Holistic Well-Being: Remember that mental health is just one aspect of your overall well-being. Focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, nurturing positive relationships, and engaging in activities that bring joy and purpose.
While the internet offers a wealth of health information at our fingertips, the trend of self-diagnosis warrants caution. The digital health landscape demands a balanced approach, where individuals empower themselves with knowledge while recognizing the importance of consulting mental healthcare professionals for accurate diagnoses and tailored treatment plans. By striking this balance, we can navigate the internet’s vast information pool wisely, promoting informed decisions and overall well-being.