The Dangers of Self Diagnosing Mental Illness

There are many reasons why people attempt to self-diagnose mental illness: doctors are expensive, time-consuming and depending on the signs, you may think you know yourself and your symptoms better than anybody else could. However, there are just as many reasons why you can’t cut the doctor out of the equation when it comes to diagnosing and treating your illness. It’s always good to do some research and learn about what your symptoms may indicate and to consider how they are affecting your body, but when it comes down to it, it’s important to get a professional diagnosis and to discuss a treatment plan with your doctor.

(In)Accuracy of Online Sources

Most websites that offer medical advice will include a disclaimer to say the information they provide should not substitute that of a medical professional’s. Symptoms can be amplified by your surroundings or other illnesses you may have, and without the help of a medical professional, it can be difficult to know whether your symptoms have an uncomplicated diagnosis or whether they are indicative of a more serious illness. Many illnesses present similar symptoms, and doctors are trained to gather very specific and detailed information to see whether there are more symptoms present than the ones that bother someone enough to pay the doctor a visit. These kinds of details can very easily be missed by online symptom checkers.

According to GoHealth Urgent Care, “Using common symptoms and searches, researchers found that the accuracy of diagnosis varied substantially. In fact, these symptom checkers provided the correct diagnosis as the first result only 34% of the time and within the first three diagnoses 51% of the time.” While WebMD and other online symptom checkers can be very informative, no one should attempt to treat their symptoms based off a diagnosis they arrive at from an online source.

The Problem With Self-Medicating

In the age of excess information, it’s difficult to know what information is accurate. A lot of times, you can find conflicting information and many individuals tend to listen to the information that they would prefer be true. Doctors are able to take bias out of the equation, as it’s their job to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. So while someone may find a site that confirms there’s a holistic cure to depression, such as exercising and getting more sunlight, a doctor may be able to tell you that you are suffering from a chemical imbalance which can be treated with daily medication. If you’re suffering from mental illness and trying to treat yourself, remember that your diagnosis doesn’t define you and that you may be going through an unnecessarily difficult situation that could be resolved with antidepressants and/or counseling.

You should never take prescription medicines that aren’t prescribed to you as they can exacerbate symptoms and have dangerous side effects depending on your medical history. It’s never a bad idea to make healthier lifestyle changes to try to improve your mental health; however, if your symptoms continue, it’s important to seek a doctor for help. Mental illness can completely disrupt your day-to-day life and it’s crucial to seek professional advice to alleviate the symptoms. It’s difficult to live a normal life when suffering from mental illness and the best thing to do is to find a treatment plan that works for you. Trying to tough out mental illness is an exhausting and painful route considering that one in five adults suffer from mental illness.

There are too many variables involved in diagnosing mental illness to try to find an accurate diagnosis without a medical professional. While it maybe be tempting to self-diagnose to avoid the doctor and medical bills, it’s best to look for resources that can help. Slowly but surely, as society becomes more knowledgeable about mental illness, the stigma associated with it changes for the better. However, no matter what diagnosis belongs to you, it doesn’t define your ability to accomplish life goals. On the contrary, a formal diagnosis is the first step to alleviating your symptoms and getting on the path to better days.


Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash