Self-diagnosis is the process of identifying what mental illness you have without the help of a professional, such as a doctor or a psychiatrist. It may occasionally be useful, but often self-diagnosis is counterproductive and harmful to the person diagnosing themself. Mental illnesses and sicknesses discovered through self-diagnosis may just be slightly inaccurate, or sometimes completely incorrect.
Why is self-diagnosis so frequently wrong?
* v: tick (symptom); empty space: not a symptom
From this, we can see that many mental illnesses share common symptoms and they often overlap. This shows that it is extremely difficult for non-professionals to perfectly match all the symptoms to a specific mental illness, thus incorrectly diagnosing themselves.
In addition, some symptoms may stem from completely different roots to what one diagnoses themself with. A loss of interest in an activity may simply be caused by a loss of interest in it, not carrying any underlying problems; trouble concentrating could be due to an undiagnosed learning difficulty instead of a mental illness. Hence, the person self-diagnosing might be amplifying or minimising their symptoms.
With the advent of social media, more information about mental health is spread online. This is beneficial in many cases; spreading awareness generally isn’t harmful. However, the majority looking through a list of symptoms will undoubtedly find some that they relate to. It may well be that they do have a mental illness, but it’s way more common for one to be biased and worry over common experiences which may appear in the vast lists of symptoms.
Statistics of self-diagnosis
In 2015, online symptom checkers were used 100 million times in the US alone
35% of self-diagnosed patients don’t receive formal diagnoses from a professional
18% of the patients who goes to a doctor are proven to be mis-diagnosed
26-45% of people who self-diagnose themselves with depression don’t actually fulfill the criteria for depression when formally diagnosed
Dangers of self-diagnosis
Misdiagnosis of an illness means one may receive the wrong treatment
Further health complications may be caused by self-treatment
Immense stress from shock may be caused by one self-diagnosing, which could worsen pre-existing illnesses
Self-treatment, like medicine or medical scans for a wrongly self-diagnosed illness may cost a lot
One’s condition may worsen if they refuse treatment from professional diagnosis and follow their self-diagnosis instead
What to do about it
Don’t diagnose yourself with illnesses; if you have concerns about your health or mental wellbeing, seek professional health and/or a formal diagnosis
If you see information online about wellbeing, fact-check the information to confirm its accuracy. If inaccurate, do not share it or repost it.
If someone around you has been self-diagnosing, inform them about the risks and ask them to seek professional help for a formal diagnosis.
Writer: Alvin Yip
Editor: Sylvia Yip
Thumbnail: Alexia Yuen