Dr Catherine Carney, the psychiatrist at Private Rehab Clinic Delamere, said: ‘Many people turn to social media for health-related information, but despite how common this is among young adults, the significant downside is that self–diagnosis can be extremely hazardous and potentially threatening to your health.’
‘It makes sense why more and more people are turning to social media for advice on their mental health. They can receive instant information regarding their troubling queries instead of waiting for a doctor’s appointment or seeing a mental health specialist. The issue with seeking advice on social media is that you could be provided with completely incorrect information, which could end up becoming an added detriment to your health.’
Catherine added: ‘It can be tough to verify the sourced information found on social media, as anyone can share their opinions and treatment methods without being a qualified or trusted creator. That’s what makes this form of diagnosis so dangerous, and a recent report carried out by the Delamere data team found that 61% of the mental health advice provided on TikTok is incorrect.’
‘Health information on social media is often too general. Each person has a different family and health background, which can contribute to a medical professional’s decision-making process when deciding on a proper diagnosis or treatment method. That’s why it’s important to speak to a doctor, as they will know about you and your medical history, making your experience less stressful and more accurate.’
‘People often experience heightened feelings of stress when self-diagnosing online and on social media; they often assume the worst before speaking to a professional about their symptoms and condition, which puts patients at greater risk both physically and mentally.’
She concluded that: ‘There is also the added danger of self-medicating using products with negative side effects that won’t treat your illness and, in some cases, even worsen it.’
‘Social media is a great tool for finding open conversations about mental health and connecting with others who have experiences that resonate with you. But it’s important that when using platforms such as TikTok, you don’t assume that someone who is displaying symptoms of a mental health disorder has the same diagnosis as you.’
‘With mental health conditions, there are often overlapping symptoms that can be an indicator for a diagnosis, so approach content on social media with caution.’
Speak to a professional
While it’s hard to break the habit of self-diagnosing online, it’s not healthy to continue. If you find it difficult to limit or stop the behaviour, it’s important to speak to a mental health professional. Speaking to a specialist will help ease feelings of anxiety and stress when your feelings are spiralling out of control.
Use trusted medical institutions
If you seek medical information or advice online, make sure you use the websites of trusted medical institutions such as the official NHS website. For the vast majority of medical concerns, there will be an established, trustworthy charitable organisation set up with a professional website that will answer most questions.
Find a distraction
When you have the urge to search your symptoms online or on social media, find something to distract yourself, you can go for a run, call a friend, watch some television, or do anything that will distract your mind.
Set a limit
Break from the habit of self-diagnosing by limiting the time you spend watching and searching for mental health videos on social media. Set yourself a time limit; once you have reached it, stop searching and look for something alternative to do.