emotional wellbeing Stacey Nabutse

Study reveals how unreliable mental health advice is on social media

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Sharing mental health advice on social media is becoming increasingly common, but how can you be sure that what you’re reading is accurate and safe?

To determine the accuracy of mental health information provided on social media, psychologists at Delamere have analysed TikTok posts to reveal what percentage is incorrect.

The research carried out by Delamere found that a shocking 61% of the information provided on TikTik about mental health is incorrect.

Despite having more than 10 million views, the TikTik video “Signs of high functioning anxiety was only 50% accurate with a score of 20 out of 40. ‘Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder’ scored even lower, with a shocking score of just 13 out of the possible 40.

The research found that no videos advised viewers to seek further mental advice from their doctor and only three videos were created by a qualified or trusted creator.

Each TikTok video was scored on the following; contains 100% correct information, advice viewers to speak to a doctor, qualified and trusted creator, and is sustainable for the audience.

What are the dangers of self-diagnosing on social media?

Dr. Catherine Carney, Psychiatrist at Private Rehab Clinic Delamere; 

“Many people turn to social media for health-related information, but despite how common this is amongst young adults, the significant downside is that self-diagnosis can be extremely hazardous and potentially threatening to your health.

It makes sense why more and more people are turning to social media for advice on their mental health as they can receive instant information regarding their troubling queries, instead of waiting for a doctor’s appointment or seeing a mental health specialist.

The issue with seeking advice on social media is that you could be provided with completely incorrect information which could end up becoming an added detriment to your health.

It can be tough to verify the sourced information found on social media, as anyone can share their opinions and methods of treatment without being a qualified or trusted creator – that’s what makes this form of diagnosis so dangerous.

Health information on social media is often too general. Each person has a different family and health background which can contribute to the decision-making process a medical professional goes through when deciding on a proper diagnosis or treatment method. That’s why it’s important to speak to a doctor, as they will have knowledge about you and your medical history, which will make your experience less stressful and more accurate.

People often experience heightened feelings of stress when self-diagnosing online and on social media, they often assume the worst before speaking to a professional about their symptoms and condition, which puts patients at greater risk both physically and mentally.

There is also the added danger of self-medicating using products with negative side effects that won’t treat your illness and in some cases even worsen it.

Social media is a great tool for finding open conversations about mental health and connecting with others who have experiences that resonate with you. But it’s important that when using platforms such as TikTok you don’t assume that someone who is displaying symptoms of a mental health disorder has the same diagnosis as you.

With mental health conditions, there are often overlapping symptoms that can be an indicator for a diagnosis, so approach content on social media with caution.”

How to avoid self-diagnosing on social media

Speak to a professional –

While it’s hard to break the habit of self-diagnosing online, it’s not healthy to continue. If you’re finding it difficult to limit or stop the behavior, it’s important to speak to a mental health professional. Speaking to a specialist will help to ease feelings of anxiety and stress when your feelings are spiraling out of control.

Use trusted medical institutions –

If you are seeking medical information or advice online make sure you are using the websites of trusted medical institutions such as the official NHS website. For the vast majority of medical concerns, there will be an established, trustworthy charitable organization set up with a professional website that will answer most questions.

Find a distraction –

When you have the urge to search your symptoms online or on social media, find something to distract yourself, you can go for a run, call a friend, watch some television, or do anything that will distract your mind.

Set a limit –

Break from the habit of self-diagnosing by setting a limit on the time you spend watching and searching for mental health videos on social media. Set yourself a time limit, once you have reached it, stop searching and look for something alternative to do.

 

Stacey Nabutse
Author: Stacey Nabutse

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