I’ve seen a lot of tweets/statuses/blog posts/youtube videos about self-diagnosing social anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses lately. There’s a lot of heated debates going on and it seems very divided between those who think self-diagnosis is perfectly valid and people who flat-out think it’s unacceptable.
I personally didn’t have the chance to self-diagnose my disorder because my diagnosis was given to me by a therapist 13 years ago, before I even knew social anxiety existed but I’m still not sure that I disagree with people self-diagnosing if they have to.
Personally, I think it could be a difficult thing for someone to get that professional diagnosis if they’re literally too anxious to see a doctor or live in a place where they can’t afford to. If that’s the case, a self-diagnosis could help in the mean time, purely for the fact they’d have somewhere to look for help. You can’t find resources online to help if you don’t know what it is you’re suffering from. If the research has been done and it seems a likely possibility that they have social anxiety, why can’t they proceed with that understanding?
I agree that people who self-diagnose should do so with caution. Some symptoms that occur with anxiety can also be an underlying symptom of a physical illness, so in that case a self-diagnosis could result in a physical illness going untreated but if your symptoms tick every single box and you can’t get to a doctor, I don’t see why you can’t self-diagnose for the time being.
Everyone has social anxiety to a degree, it’s normal. It’s only when it’s interfering with your life and becoming a huge problem that it’s classed as a disorder and if you’ve self-diagnosed with the intention of being able to find a treatment and the treatment you are using helps… it’s probably safe to say you’re not causing anyone with a professional diagnosis any harm.
The real danger is when self-diagnosis comes from ill intent. I’ve talked about this previously on my blog but when people self-diagnose because they want to have a mental illness, because they think that particular mental illness is fashionable and it gives them a label, THAT is when it’s a problem.
People with genuine social anxiety disorders are completely valid in being irate with that because it causes a lot of problems, such as:
It makes it look like mental illness is a choice.
Treating it like a fashion statement just romanticises mental illness.
It perpetuates stigmas that the mental health community have been working so hard to try to break.
It makes mental illnesses appear less serious than they really are.
It’s incredibly insulting to those who have to actually live with a mental illness.
If this kind of self-diagnosis makes you angry, I am so with you on that!
What I am not with anyone on, is shaming people and pushing them out of a community because they’re self-diagnosed. If someone is in a support group for social anxiety and they ask for help, I will help them… diagnosis or no diagnosis. Just imagine you couldn’t afford to see a doctor or a therapist or your social anxiety was so bad that the idea of even going to a doctor’s surgery, just to get the diagnosis, was the worst thing imaginable, so you join a support group or try to talk to other people with social anxiety to look for advice and you get shamed for not having a real diagnosis. It’s just unnecessary and all it does is make us all look bad.
My advice to you, if you’re only in a position right now to make a self-diagnosis, is to:
Do as much research as you can. Just a checklist of symptoms won’t be enough, as not everyone who has a social anxiety disorder has exactly the same symptoms, so try to delve a bit further than this.
Make sure that if/when you can get a proper diagnosis, to go and see someone, as you could be missing out on a treatment that works better for you.
Remember that if you give yourself a diagnosis, it isn’t confirmed, it could be wrong.
Remember than being anxious and having an anxiety disorder are two different things, ask yourself whether this could be normal feelings of being anxious or whether this is disrupting your life.
As for my stance on the matter, it all depends on the person and why they are self-diagnosing. Sometimes it can be a good thing to do, something it can be a not so good thing to do. Sometimes it is the only option. It just depends what the circumstances are.
I would like to hear your thoughts on this though, I welcome any discussion on this topic if you’d like to reply in the comments.