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Stop Relying on Social Media for Your Mental Health Advice!

As a therapist, I speak to a wide range of people of all ages about their mental health. Over the past two years, I've become increasingly concerned with the trend of individuals seeking mental health advice from social media platforms like TikTok and the impact it is having on them.

For instance, recently, I have been working with a client struggling with anxiety and panic. Through our conversations, she revealed to me that when she first started to experience anxiety she did not want to talk to anyone about it and so started to research it. Soon enough, her timelines across social media were filled with people either offering anxiety advice or with people suffering with their own anxiety.

By her own admission, this became almost an obsession for her to engage with and as she did, the algorithms fed her more of the same. All of which led to her feeling more anxious and confused than ever before.

This is not unusual, I have worked with clients of all ages who have used social media in this way and it regularly causes far more harm than good.

Not only do I see people self diagnose, due to them watching a video which tells them if you do X then you must have this condition, but I also see people who diagnose others as a result too.

This ranges from mental health conditions to personality disorders to neurodiversity.

So why is this a problem?

It's crucial we start to recognise the potential dangers of such practices, both in terms of self-diagnosis and the harm caused by platform algorithms.

Firstly, diagnosing mental health issues, particularly complex conditions like personality disorders, is far from straightforward. These require professional evaluation and cannot be accurately assessed in a brief social media video. Recent statistics reveal that misinformation regarding mental health is rampant online, with a study showing that up to 90% of popular mental health posts on social media platforms contain some form of misleading or inaccurate information.

The allure of quick answers can lead individuals to self-diagnose, often inaccurately, which may delay appropriate professional help. Furthermore, the practice of diagnosing others without a professional background contributes to stigma and misunderstandings about mental health conditions.

Another issue is the role of social media algorithms. Designed to engage users by presenting similar content, these algorithms can inadvertently worsen mental health. For individuals searching for information on anxiety, for example, algorithms might flood their feeds with content that not only focuses on anxiety but often exaggerates or misrepresents the condition. This can heighten anxiety rather than alleviate it.

A study in the UK indicated that individuals who relied heavily on social media for mental health support reported worsening symptoms over time due to the overwhelming and often negative nature of the content served.

It is essential for individuals to approach mental health information on social media with caution and scepticism.

So what do we do about it?

We need to apply caution when consuming this information, if you believe you have a mental health condition, personality disorder or are neurodiverse, consult with medical professionals for diagnosis or treatment rather than relying on potentially harmful online sources.

Remember, accurate diagnosis and effective treatment require a nuanced understanding of mental health.

We also need to recognise that what someone else has experienced may not be true for us, having a similar response does not always mean having a similar condition.

Where do I get help?

Whilst social media can offer support and community, it is vital to be aware of its limitations and potential risks in the context of mental health.

For those experiencing mental health issues, professional consultation is always the best course of action, start by reaching out to your GP.

As therapists, we do not diagnose these conditions, however we will be happy to signpost anyone to the appropriate place if you are struggling.

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