Why Self-Diagnosing Your Mental State Isn’t a Good Thing

The abundance and availability of information on the Internet have made almost every second person an expert in psychology, and almost everyone will tell you with confidence what their disorder or mental issue is - all without going to a specialist. Is it safe to engage in this kind of self-diagnosis?

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Every day there are many psychological articles and tests published online that describe the signs and “symptoms” of various conditions, as well as mental disorders. And while people’s very interest in their psychological well-being is important and gratifying, it is easy to get confused in such a flood of information.

Many people who seek help from specialists are convinced that they have a psychological and sometimes psychiatric diagnosis. Most often, they self-diagnose on the basis of articles on the Internet, and the conclusions rarely correspond to the real state of affairs. Let’s try to figure out how such self-diagnosis can harm.

What’s wrong with self-diagnosis

Usually, the lack of scientific, professional knowledge distorts the perception of what is going on. And most importantly, self-diagnosis does not help solve the difficult situation and get rid of the “symptom” that is tormenting the person.

Complex psychological phenomena are greatly simplified.

Non-specialists tend to reduce complex problems and conditions to simple and narrow definitions. This simplifies understanding complex terms and situations but can be confusing and lead to incorrect conclusions.

For example, there is a common belief that depression is a kind of sad mood. According to the research conducted by PaperWritingService.nyc, almost one in four people in the EU believe that is true. But sadness after watching a tragic movie is not a manifestation of depression. The essence of the disease is much broader: it has different causes, types, and manifestations. And with this to sort out only a specialist.

The totality of “symptoms” is not taken into account

It is important to note that in this article, the term “symptom” has no medical meaning, but is used for brevity to describe psychological manifestations.

In order to make a correct psychological diagnosis, the entire set of “symptoms” must be considered, because the same symptom can indicate a wide variety of conditions. However, self-diagnosis is usually made on the basis of 1-2 striking signs without taking into account the rest. This approach, of course, leads to errors and misconceptions. For example, a person may be sincerely convinced that they are suffering from the bipolar affective disorder, drawing that conclusion from only one item in the article about this disorder – the change in mood from sadness and apathy to elation.

But in BAR, moods don’t just change. A person with this disorder experiences long periods of deep emotional states – from a week to two years. In addition, there are a number of other symptoms that help identify the disorder.

The characteristic of “symptoms” is not taken into account.

Not only the “symptom” itself is important, but also the situations in which it occurs, as well as other indicators. For example, the duration of the phenomenon, its spread to all areas of life. And there are a lot of such details so that only an expert can fully understand all this variety.

For example, difficulties with remembering appear for a variety of reasons. If a person during the last week works a lot and sleeps little, their perception systems are overloaded. The brain does not have time to process information. This is where rest, sleep, and recovery will help. But when the person sleeps enough, and the memory deteriorates little by little and for a long time, you need to analyze the other “symptoms”.

By analogy, we can all read an article about the oil price situation and what led to it, and agree that the reduction in oil production a couple of weeks ago has led to an increase in the price now. However, unlike the average person, an expert can not only explain changes in the market in retrospect but on the basis of indirect assumptions understand which of the stocks given in this article are worth buying now in order to make a profit. Just as in the case of diagnosing a psychological condition, in the vast majority of cases, only an expert can fully assess the situation and distinguish important “symptoms” from minor ones.

There is no objective perception of the problem

Self-assessed psychological diagnosis often diverges from reality for another reason: the person cannot see the whole situation. Perception is subjective and is influenced by factors such as lack of information, lack of a clear goal of observation, and psychological defenses.

For example, the one who complains of irritability may not notice that they react like that only in a certain situation – when communicating with their colleagues. But since communication with them occupies most of the day, the person may consider himself irritable in general and again make psychological diagnoses based on this “symptom”. Although it may have been a matter of unpleasant colleagues.

How it can hurt.

Avoiding the true problem

Often self-diagnosis performs a kind of defensive function and helps to focus not on the key difficulty, but on the “symptom” itself. In situations like this, people often say to themselves, “now I understand why it’s bad, but what can you do – this is the condition”.

This happens when the basic problem which has caused the “symptom” does not want to be addressed for some reason. For example, the person may find it psychologically painful or difficult to even think about the source of his or her difficulties.

Unfortunately, this kind of escapism is a big illusion. An unresolved problem will constantly remind of itself and manifest itself elsewhere, no matter what you call it.

Trying to conform to the “diagnosis”

Some people do begin to adjust their behavior to the condition described on the Internet. Although a psychological diagnosis has been made on the basis of a single “symptom,” the person concludes that everything they read is true, and therefore they must conform. This is how self-hypnosis works: in essence, people convince themselves. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior makes the situation worse. At least because it leads away from the real problem.

Growth of anxiety

When a person gathers information from various sources, it is not uncommon for information to become intertwined, and the conditions described become mixed up with one another. This can lead to confusion and severe anxiety.

In addition to worrying about the “symptoms,” there is anxiety about one’s mental state in general. Such a situation does not help at all to solve the root cause that caused the person to start looking for information on the Internet.

Unjustified actions

Some people not only make psychological diagnoses based on what they read on the Internet but also make serious decisions. This can be reckless.

For example, an article titled “30 signs that is time to end a relationship” is not a reason to make a psychological verdict on a relationship, even if the couple is at a difficult stage. It is necessary to take into account the individual characteristics of the situation, perhaps seek advice from a family psychologist and remember that crises in relationships are normal, and each of them is a possible point of growth.

What to do when something bothers you

It is important not to be afraid to seek help from a specialist. This way you can avoid the negative consequences of self-diagnosis, and also save time and effort. A competent psychologist or psychotherapist will help to understand the situation, will explain what the “symptoms” are connected to, and will tell you how to cope with their cause.

And although it may be a little worrying to go to the appointment, today the choice of specialists is huge. It may not be possible to find “your” psychologist or psychotherapist at the first attempt, but it is definitely worth looking at. In any case, you can always read the reasons why you should consider changing your psychotherapist: here are the first and second articles on the subject.

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