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The Problem with TikTok Diagnosis

We have more information at our fingertips than we ever have before. This immediate accessibility is both a blessing and a curse. Because of the ease with which we can acquire information, it is important for us to be careful about what we accept as true. A recent social media trend is the use of TikTok and other social media platforms to find psychological diagnoses. Here are a few reasons why we should be careful and skeptical of this trend:

Consider the source: Who are you getting your diagnosis from? As a social worker, I was required to take two semesters of graduate-level classes devoted to understanding diagnostic criteria and making proper and appropriate diagnoses. It is important to know a diagnostician’s credentials. You wouldn’t necessarily want a medical diagnosis from someone who didn’t attend medical school. The same should hold true for any diagnostic information that you are obtaining from a social media platform. Considering the source can help to ensure that you are not receiving misinformation.

Diagnosing from a distance: When a therapist meets with a client, there is an important personal element that simply does not exist through social media diagnosis. The TikTok diagnostician cannot hear your speech, see your facial expressions, or have any unique understanding of your personal situation. He cannot observe your mood, affect, or presentation. These are all vital parts of making an appropriate diagnosis. Without them, any diagnosis will be vague and generalized, and, therefore, possibly inaccurate.

Differentiate between normal and diagnosable: There are many human “problems” that are considered normal and not necessarily diagnosable. For instance, anxiety is common but doesn’t necessarily warrant a diagnosis of a disorder. While it can be tempting to assign everything a name or a label, some things are simply a result of living in a stressful world. TikTok diagnoses can often rigidly categorize normal problems into diagnoses. Only a trained professional can make a diagnosis that considers the difference between normal and clinically diagnosable.

A label isn’t always scientific: As humans, we naturally look for answers. We like to understand things and be able to define them in simple terms. We often casually say we are being “OCD” when we are highly focused on something or that we have “ADD” when we are having difficulty focusing. It’s important to remember that a true medical or psychiatric diagnosis requires certain criteria to be met. It’s not as simple as experiencing a symptom and immediately assigning it a label. Social media diagnoses can often oversimply the true diagnostic process and are, in and of themselves, not scientific.

Remember the purpose: TikTok was never intended to be a diagnostic or a scientific tool. It is, overall, an entertainment platform and that is important to remember. The same way you wouldn’t turn on your television for a diagnosis, you shouldn’t rely on a social media platform to provide proper diagnostic information. Bear in mind TikTok’s true purpose before you utilize it as an outlet for medical or psychiatric information.

By Phil Lane, LCSW

This post is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical diagnosis or treatment. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

©2022 PL Therapy, LLC. All rights reserved.

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