How to Diagnose Your Own Mental Health Issues (Or Not)

Can you diagnose your own mental health issues? Maybe. But first, one important caveat about the intricacies of self-diagnosis, a much-quoted statement by William Gibson: Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes. 

Another caveat is about suggestibility, anxieties, and not knowing nearly enough. This can be exemplified by what’s commonly known as student’s disease (or psychology student’s disease or medical student’s disease). You learn about a specific diagnosis and boom, “that’s me!” Moreover, this can happen often, and usually inaccurately, to the same individual over and over again.

Speaking of over and over again, If you not only diagnose your own mental health issues but also do so continually, there’s another name for the condition you may have: hypochondria. Ironically, this is an actual diagnosis you might fail to consider.

In a Psychology Today post, psychiatrist Srini Pillay offers additional reasons that self-diagnosis of psychological problems is “dangerous.” Here are just a few (which may actually overlap with those already cited):

  • There are many nuances to diagnosis that might be missed
  • Various unknown health/medical problems could be behind psychological symptoms
  • We can’t always perceive ourselves objectively or accurately
  • There can be a tendency to exaggerate how our symptoms manifest

The types of mental disorders one can incorrectly self-diagnose are numerous and include (but aren’t limited to) depression, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, personality disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictions. If you “give yourself” any of these labels, what next? Will you also self-treat? Won’t your problems get worse in the meantime and/or lead to further issues?

Even if you do intend to consult a professional for appropriate diagnosis and treatment, though, there are actually some benefits to finding out more about yourself and your symptoms before getting there.

(Surprised I went there?)

(I’m not even going to talk right now about the possibility that official diagnosers can also get it wrong.)

A lot depends on whether you can handle your own research. In addition to heeding the warnings already included in this post, consider the following:

Self-knowledge is a good thing. Any worthwhile therapist or clinician will respect that you tried to learn more about yourself and your symptoms, and he/she/they will work with you to further figure stuff out.

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