The problem with self-diagnosing yourself

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Person on computer

During my psychology course, my professor began the lesson with a cautionary tale of the phenomenon “medical school disease”, when students use the textbook to self-diagnose.

Self-diagnosis is partially inevitable; we naturally resonate with that which reflects our personal experiences – but to what extent?

Person on computer
Photo by: Sadiya Teeple

We fall for confirmation bias, receiving search results based on what can be attributed to our overall subconscious bias and need to feel understood.

Mental illness is inspected under a microscope, picked apart by the symptoms to favor ones we feel most aligned with and rejecting those that are deemed extreme.

The ugly parts can be ostracizing, people instinctively not wishing to feel like outliers, but that’s how suffering with mental health illness feels for many.

Social media perpetuates a tamer, filtered and easily digestible version of mental illnesses that often scratches the surface of the emotional burden faced by the individual, their family and friends.

People want to learn but don’t want to be made uncomfortable.

Mental illness awareness is popular when symptoms can be rebranded and repackaged as more rational and familiar rather than capturing the deep despair that can consume someone’s life.

This online narrative of mental illness doesn’t push dialogue in a direction that healthcare practitioners unanimously agree is healthy.

Trending TikTok videos drive ongoing self-diagnoses, summarizing in seconds or minutes a therapized version of mental health advice, often supported by anecdotal evidence.

Professional support can be difficult to get, but alternative help should not have to be misleading. Spreading misinformation with a lack of credible expertise is harmful.

Lack in critical thinking when using unsupported claims in conjunction to limited nuanced approaches to mental illnesses undermine the foundation upon which we strive to practice psychology – integrity and science.

Mental health awareness under capitalism attempts to recognize symptoms of primarily anxiety and depression.

Unfortunately, information is very limited for those who are diagnosed with schizophrenia, dissociative disorders, personality disorders and other more “uncommon” disorders.

Rarely do we see those symptoms openly depicted in mental health campaigns or the media. Especially in an accurate, honest manner.

Prioritizing mental health in a population requires objectively changing the system that curates an environment in which people become ill.

Society is run by large corporations, and oftentimes what doesn’t produce monetary value isn’t prioritized. Why should it? People will go to work anyways to make ends meet.

Consequently, mental health awareness lacks true meaningful outreach that requires it to be effective.

Companies can portray savior complex to fulfill their Corporate Social Responsibility Evaluation and appear “good” and “decent” to the public without further inspection.

Unproductive workers are inconvenient to capitalists, but we aren’t defined by our value through work output.

We’re humans, byproducts of our environment. How much virtue signaling or Bell Let’s Talk promotions will society put up with before dismantling systems of oppression that encourage these coping mechanisms to begin with?


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