Self-Diagnosed on Social Media

We’ve all done it at some point – looked up our relatively mild symptoms on WebMD and found at least five potentially life-threatening diseases that could be the cause. Nine times out of ten, it’s just heartburn, or mild skin irritation, or some other benign condition that will clear up on its own. But, at the time, it sure was scary falling down that rabbit hole of self-diagnosis.

Moriah’s Medical Director Dr. Tim Jeider, a psychiatrist, sees this same kind of patient self-diagnosis at his private practice, Nevada Mental Health.

“Patients get on TikTok and become convinced that they check every box of a mental health diagnosis,” Dr. Jeider said. “It’s kids, teens and younger, who are online and digesting all of this.” he said.

He said patients of all ages come to his office looking for a specific diagnosis, as well as a specific prescription. According to Dr. Jeider, this is evidence that the sophisticated marketing is having a significant influence on both kids and adults.

But Dr. Jeider says there’s another issue at play here too. Our entire culture has shifted to a point that we are overpathologizing mental health to a dangerous degree.

“There’s a tendency now to think a couple of bad days at work, or one dysregulated co-worker in your office, qualifies as a ‘toxic’ workplace,” Dr. Jeider said. We do need to look for non-prescription interventions for dealing with normal daily life,” he said.

So the question is, how do you know if you or your child needs professional help to deal with anxiety and depression, or another mental health concern?

Dr. Jeider said the first step is to get an assessment from a licensed and certified behavioral health provider, and come to that assessment with an open and honest mindset.

“Meaningful conversations with your provider is key. Having a treatment plan is key. Parents need to be very involved in this process,” Dr. Jeider said.

Dr. Jeider said patience with the process is important too, and that reaching for a diagnosis and pills can be a distraction from the real work that needs to be done by the entire family.

“Sometimes 90 days of treatment in an adolescent residential program is what the family needs in order to reset the dynamics at home,” Dr. Jeider said. That level of care, followed by a few months of intensive outpatient, equips the teen with tools to cope with any challenges that lie ahead.”

So while TikTok and YouTube certainly have earned their place in our lives (like when the garbage disposal breaks or you need to replace a headlight on your car), diagnosing your teenager’s mental health is not one of them.

Assessments are always free at Moriah Behavioral Health, so please reach out to us any time.