Self-diagnosis in the age of Social Media
“I’m not going to the party because I suffer from social anxiety”.
“I can’t study because I’ve got ADHD”.
“I want to change schools because I’m depressed”.
Our kids love TikTok for a host of reasons but the latest one brings with it the challenge of self diagnosis! Yup,TikTok is now the go-to platform our kids are using for self-diagnosing mental health issues and neurodivergence.
Increasingly, their favourite influencers are popping up online as “mental health influencers”. They openly speak about their own struggles and bless our kids, they over-identify with them on every level. So while on one level they are admiring the music, or their gaming prowess, very quickly they are relating to their favourite influencer’s mental-health struggles too.
Influencer posts range from “I have the worst ADHD – how ‘bout you?” ..,to “Common ADHD Struggles” and “5 habits that mean you are depressed.” Influencers love discussing their everyday situations that result in our kids feeling a deep connection to them.
This deep connection is leveraged to get likes, increase viewership and help videos go viral. It’s a no brainer in influencer world. These videos encourage self-reflection, discourage professional assessment, and often trigger unnecessary anxiety over perceived disorders. The result? A trend of self-diagnosis among their prime (younger) audience – our children!
Needless to say self-diagnosis can be inaccurate and harmful. Even credible information online can’t replace professional advice, and some creators are most definitely more about chasing the views than they are about sharing accurate information. They share hype, they share drama, they create extreme views which often leave our t/weens going searching through a smorgasbord of mental illnesses until one ‘fits’ comfortably.
What should I do?
- Take notice: Needless to say take every statement your child makes about their mental health seriously – whatever they bring is without question, a tacit request to be noticed, supported and heard.
- Consult the real dudes and dudettes: If you suspect there might be thread of truth to their experience of their own mental state, consult medical/psychological experts.
- Look at the actual picture: If you feel your child is just ‘looking for attention’, give them the attention they are looking for. Try understand what their underlying need might be about. Are you going through a divorce, are they struggling at school socially, is academics achievement suddnely out of reach.
- A little reminder: Help your kids to know that not all creators are reaching out or sharing with the best intentions, some are just trying to get traction on their vaiouus platforms.
What should I say?
- Have you noticed how kids on TikTok are now sharing their mental health struggles openly? It’s like they’re becoming ‘mental health influencers.’ I love how they are open about their struggles- do you like it or do you think it’s too much?
- I get that sharing your struggles online can de-stigmatize mental illness, do you think there might be any downside to sharing information like this online?
- Do you think if you were struggling and someone you admire online seemed to have the same struggle, it would make you feel less alone or would you want to have a real chat with someone who you can actually connect with on a day to day level?