I read an article recently that stated that self diagnosed mental disorders where okay because after all not everyone could afford to go to the doctors and sometimes the doctors got it wrong. I agree that both those problems are real and should be addressed, but, um, why does that make self diagnosing okay? You can know something is wrong without labeling it and you can get more than one doctors opinion. Mental health is not something that should be taken lightly and self diagnosing is dangerous.
For starters our mind is and always has been sensitive to ideas. The power of suggestion goes a long way. Ask anyone who has gone on WebMD to see why they have a sore throat. It can cause us to start imagining symptoms that we don’t have. It can make things worse than they already are.
So, you think you have a minor case of OCD, then you start reading about the bad cases, you watch videos and think “oh I do that too!”. Over the next few weeks you start to notice things more and more, even things that are completely normal. It changes how you think about your life and that changes how you act.
If you had gone to a doctor they might have told you that you’re not OCD, but just a tidy person, then given you a few tips to fight those few compulsive habits. Do you see where I’m going here?
Not only can self diagnosing lead to this type of behavior but it can also lead to self medicating, which anyone with an addiction can tell you, is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Especially when it comes to medications like anti-depressants. Every body is different and taking the wrong ones can make you more depressed than you already were. Alcohol, weed, and whatever else isn’t actually any better. But I’ll leave the idea of recreational drugs as coping mechanisms for another time.
Another thing? Self diagnosing yourself normally leaves you with inaccurate information about the disorder because not all material online is correct (I know, it’s a bit of a shocker). Of course this is harmful for you, but it is also harmful to people who actually have the disorder. Spreading false ideas and claiming you have something you don’t understand isn’t helpful. It helps strengthen stereotypes and leads other people to self diagnose as well. And honestly, sometimes reading these people who claim to have my mental illness (who have no concept of the disorder) feels like mockery. It’s just not cute or helpful to anyone.
The article I mentioned said that self diagnosing can help you find a community, but you can find a community without labeling things. If you’re having anxiety you call tell people that, if you’re feeling extremely moody or like you’re going crazy (because of x,y, or z) you can tell people that. You’re not going to be turned away from communities who can relate to you. It’s perfectly fine to say “I’m not diagnosed but I feel like something is wrong with my mood swings.” As someone who is bipolar, I’ll listen, offer advice, and depending on whats going on… that’s right, I’ll tell you you should go to the doctor so you can be treated properly by someone trained to treat your illness.