The Pitfalls of Self-Misdiagnosing Neurodivergence
TikTok, the short video app from musical.ly, is all the rage among young adults. With some 30 million daily users, TikTok is the app for content creators who want to "go viral." With an endless feed of short clips, TikTok videos (known colloquially as "TikToks") can spread like wildfire within mere minutes. This is great if you want to share a cute video of a cat that gives millions the warm fuzzies at the tap of a button. But misinformation about mental health issues can spread just as quickly.
Neurodivergence is a term that refers to a wide range of neurological differences in the ways that people's brains work. These differences include everything from autism, ADHD, and other developmental disorders, to learning disabilities such as dyslexia. On TikTok, users who share their neurodivergent diagnoses have minutes or less to communicate their thoughts. That means an entire lifetime of experiences, symptoms, and professional evaluations must be reduced to a few quick moments. This brevity doesn't allow for the nuance necessary to accurately describe what it may mean for an individual to be neurodivergent. This means extremely complex inner workings can be oversimplified with blanket statements that get dispersed to the masses at lightning speed.
Although these users' experiences may be completely real and true, not every TikTok can be given the stamp of approval by a mental health professional before it hits the Internet. There is no process for verification of accurate information when a user posts. This means the TikToks you or your teen sees on a daily basis may be vastly misrepresenting what it means to be neurodiverse.
At best, TikTokers who post neurodivergence-themed videos are adding watered-down information to a sea of more watered-down information. At worst, they're claiming a false diagnosis as a way to gain followers and monetize their videos. The end goal of these content creators isn't to help others. It's purely about self-gain.
When you self-diagnose, you're putting your mental health into your own hands. It's great to want to learn more about yourself and why you are the way you are. It can be especially validating to find other people out there who share your experience. Even more, finding a label you can use to collect the pieces of what may have felt like a disorganized series of challenges can feel incredibly comforting.
But when it comes to medical terminology, it's important your labels are accurate. Mental health diagnoses can result in unnecessary medications or therapy that doesn't actually help you. Because of stigma and misunderstandings about mental health in our culture, your experience with what you believe to be neurodivergent symptoms may be perceived by others as something needing "fixing"--even if those "symptoms" aren't creating problems for you at all.
If you believe you may have a neurodivergent diagnosis that requires mental healthcare, the best way to proceed is by scheduling an appointment with a professional who can provide you with an accurate diagnosis. From there, you'll receive competent treatment that is tailored to you--not the TikTok-viewing masses.