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The Dangers of Self Diagnosis for Mental Health

Self-diagnosis can be dangerous. This is just as true for mental health as it is for physical health.

dangers of self-diagnosis for mental health
  • I get tired so easily. I can barely get out of bed. It’s got to be depression.
  • I’m so moody. My friends must hate me. I bet I’m bipolar just like my uncle.
  • I can’t stop overeating. I know it’s anxiety.

If you’ve ever considered a collection of physical and mental symptoms you were having and speculated a diagnosis, you are not alone. To some extent, that’s human nature. You consider observable facts, then you draw the best possible conclusion you can from those facts. The problem is that when it comes to your health, inaccurate, self-diagnosis can be dangerous. This is just as true for mental health as it is for physical health. Keep reading to explore why.

By Self Diagnosing You May Miss an Underlying Physical Cause for Your Symptoms

Recently, a popular ad campaign ‘Depression Hurts’ drew attention to the fact that clinical depression is often accompanied by physical pain. The purpose was to educate and to encourage compassion towards people with this disease. In one sense this is a good thing.

On the other hand, if someone was attempting to self-diagnose, this is the kind of information that could cause them to ignore any potential physical causes for their symptoms. Yes, the persistent sadness and soreness could definitely be major depression. It could also be a combination of depression and an unrelated physical illness. It could also be something else entirely. As a result, treatment for a physical ailment could be delayed or simply not happen at all.

Self-Diagnosis Can Impair Your Relationship with Your Doctor

Good relationships with healthcare providers are based on trust. If you don’t trust your doctor to come up with the right diagnosis, it’s time to figure out why. Did the relationship get off on the wrong foot? Do you question their experience? Do you feel brushed off or unheard? If so, work to address those issues or consider working with another provider.

A good doctor will encourage you to become an educated healthcare consumer. “That’s what your research should be focused on,”
shares Cecilia Morse, a health writer at Best Writers Canada. “For example, it’s great to research various treatment options after you’ve been diagnosed. It’s also helpful to research symptoms in order to better communicate them to your physician.”

You Could Endanger Yourself by Delaying Treatment

For many people, self-diagnosis is often followed by a self-designed plan for treatment. Sometimes that means no treatment at all. For example, somebody may simply decide they need to relax and take it easy, or they may attribute their issues to a lack of self-discipline or being overly emotional. In that case, their treatment might consist of simply coping with or ignoring their symptoms.

This is dangerous. Just like delaying treatment for any other illness, delaying treatment for mental illness can be deadly. You would likely never tell someone to follow their instinct that a lump is probably just a lump.

Rita Lucero covers health topics at GetGoodGrade.com. She warns the readers: “Don’t make the mistake of telling yourself that mental health symptoms are something that can simply be blown off altogether or ignored until the time is more convenient. Delaying treatment could mean getting to a very dark place, or becoming increasingly dysfunctional and less able to make decisions on your own behalf.”

Your Denial or Discomfort with Certain Symptoms Can Lead to Wrong Conclusions

Let’s be honest. Not all symptoms of mental illness are pleasant to consider. Dark thoughts, poor decisions, mistreatment of others, and maladaptive behaviors are all symptoms of mental illness. Unfortunately, the temptation to deny these symptoms or minimize them is high.

For example, it might be easy for a patient to acknowledge that they feel dark, depressed, and unmotivated. On the other hand, they may struggle to acknowledge that they pick fights with loved ones, create needless drama, and are frequently manipulative.

“When people deny or minimize symptoms that they are not comfortable with, they are significantly less likely to come up with a proper diagnosis,” explains Kia Stein, the health editor for Canada-Writers. “This is why it is imperative that a professional with the ability to view your situation objectively provides your final diagnosis.”

That diagnosis may be uncomfortable for you and difficult to deal with. Just keep in mind that appropriate treatment can’t follow a diagnosis that was made by sacrificing accuracy for your comfort or convenience.

Your Diagnosis Could Be Needlessly Dark or Severe

Here’s another possibility to consider. Things may simply not be as bad as you imagine. By self-diagnosing rather than being patient and waiting for feedback from your doctor, you could be causing yourself needless stress or concern. Sometimes, the best path is to let things work through proper channels. Then, you will receive the most accurate diagnosis possible.

Yes. Doctors do Make Mistakes

Everyone has heard stories where doctors have gotten things wrong. You may have even experienced this yourself. In spite of this, a licensed physician is incredibly more likely to arrive at an accurate diagnosis for your illness than you are. Work with your doctor instead of around them.

Conclusion: Be an Empowered and Educated Healthcare Consumer

Waiting for a mental health diagnosis takes time. It can be frustrating, and the truth is your initial diagnosis may not be completely accurate. It isn’t as if there is an x-ray or blood test. The best thing you can do is learn as much as you can. Record your symptoms when you have them. Learn about any family history. Provide as much useful information to your doctor as possible. Always be honest about your symptoms, even the darker ones. This is how you can assure that you receive the most accurate diagnosis and treatment that you can.

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