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TikTok leads people to self-diagnosing mental health conditions

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 6:29 PM EST
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - The social media platform TikTok is known for its short-form, usually comedic, videos.

Now, mental health professionals say they’re seeing TikTok-users, especially teens and young adults, self-diagnosing in videos about mental health disorders like anxiety or ADHD.

Dr. Robin Hawks, Professor of Psychology and Human Services at Blue Ridge Community College, said it’s important to get a diagnosis through a mental health professional.

“If you attempt to self-diagnose, you can misdiagnose yourself and therefore you seek the wrong treatment or you’re not seeking treatment at all because you don’t know what you have,” Hawks said.

Hawks said it’s important to remember health professionals have a lot of training, especially when it comes to diagnoses.

“What happens is a lot of times people will look at a very simple list and think ‘Oh I have all of that list,’ and think, ‘Oh I must be depressed’ if it’s a list on depression, but diagnosis is much more complicated than that,” Hawks said.

Videos on TikTok often provide those lists. “Put a Finger Down” challenges ask viewers to “put a finger down” if they experience a symptom.

Often, the video ends with a conclusion that if you put more than a few fingers down, you have a specific mental health condition.

“Many disorders are on a continuum from normal to abnormal, and it’s that professional that’s going to help you determine when your symptoms tip over into the abnormal level,” Hawks said.

Although self-diagnosing is bad, mental health awareness is a very good thing, and TikTok brings that to the table.

“They go online, and they see this information on mental health issues, it can be very good because it can bring awareness that maybe there’s a problem that they need to seek out,” Hawks said.

It becomes a problem when the person identifies with a diagnosis and doesn’t seek help, she said. On top of that, social media can often downplay serious conditions.

“People can actually get very caught up in these videos and the social media part of it and normalize what is going on in their life that should not be normalized,” Hawks said.

If you think you have a mental health condition, reach out to a professional.

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