Pros and Cons of Self-Diagnosis

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Pros and Cons of Self-Diagnosis

What is Self-Diagnosis?

Self-diagnosis is the practice of ascribing a mental health condition to yourself, as opposed to being diagnosed by a trained professional (i.e. a licensed clinical psychologist or a doctor). This often occurs after hearing another person recount some of their symptoms, especially on TikTok, Instagram, Reddit, or other platforms. Due to the accessibility social media provides us, we all have much greater access to firsthand accounts of people’s lived experiences with a given condition. This can be positive because it helps decrease stigma and can be an impactful educational tool.

On the other hand, many of us may find a connection to one or two aspects of another person’s experience, prompting us to jump to premature conclusions about diagnoses for which we may not actually meet the criteria. For example, you may have seen a TikTok where someone with ADHD described their experience with time blindness, a symptom that often makes them misjudge how long a certain task will take. You may relate to this phenomenon and wonder if that means you have the same diagnosis. This increase in accessibility, along with a variety of other facts, can encourage self-diagnosing.

Why Self-Diagnose?

Demographic Reasons

You may turn to self-diagnosis because your gender identity, racial identity, or age makes you less likely to receive the diagnosis that is appropriate for you. CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) points out that women are often underdiagnosed with ADHD because they tend to display inattentive symptoms, rather than the hyperactive ones often seen in boys.

In 2018, NPR released an article looking into the underdiagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This could be due to a number of factors, such as how parents with less exposure to the subject respond to their children exhibiting symptoms; however, it is also partially due to racial bias in healthcare. Many Black and Latino children go undiagnosed because their symptoms are written off as “bad behavior,” rather than as a cause for concern. Self-diagnosing may feel safer when you don’t feel seen.


Receiving a proper diagnosis often requires significant amounts of time and money. People may need to navigate long wait lists for specialists, which can be frustrating. Furthermore, you may need to see a specific specialist to receive a diagnosis or commit to a certain number of sessions before receiving a diagnosis, especially if you suspect that you may have a personality disorder. Either option forces you to pay a lot of money to be able to put a name to your experience when access to social media is less financially burdensome.

Jumping through these hoops can be discouraging, and many people may feel like it would be better to stick to the self-diagnosis route as opposed to waiting months for an appointment.


Talking to someone about your symptoms can feel more vulnerable than thinking about them privately. Many people fear the judgment that comes from discussing your experiences with a doctor. You may also fear that your family members would think less of you if you did receive a diagnosis. Therefore, it may feel safer to keep your thoughts to yourself, rather than talking about them openly.


You may resort to self-diagnosis because you suffer from health-related anxiety, often referred to as hypochondria. In this case, you may see one symptom that you relate to and become flooded with fear that you could have a given disorder. For example, you might see a TikTok that informs them that forgetfulness is a common symptom of ADHD, anxiety, depression, and could even be a trauma response. This could make you worry that you suffer from all of these disorders, or you may look deeper into one and fret about the possibility of meeting the criteria for that condition.

Cons to Self Diagnosis


Unfortunately, none of us are truly able to hold unbiased views of ourselves; we can sometimes be clouded in our self-assessment. For many of us, it is helpful to speak with a licensed professional, one who we feel seen and heard by, in order to find a diagnosis that works well for us. The professional will also be able to clarify how long you should be expressing symptoms before getting diagnosed with a certain condition – for some disorders, this may only be a handful of weeks; for others, it may need to be a handful of years.

Diagnostic Criteria

The number of symptoms you are expected to exhibit to be diagnosed differs depending on the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Therefore, relating to a handful of symptoms may still not be quite enough to provide a diagnosis. A mental health provider would be able to help you address the symptoms that you do exhibit and that regularly impact you, even if you do not meet the full criteria for the disorder, meaning you could still get help working through those challenges if you pursue mental health treatment.

Lack of Support

Self-diagnosis often leaves an individual alone to cope with their symptoms. It is difficult to manage your symptoms without the support you deserve. Without a formal diagnosis, your experiences may unfortunately be taken less seriously by the people in your support system. Talking to a professional to get a diagnosis will provide you with an outlet to discuss the emotions associated with the symptoms you’re managing. A therapist may even be able to connect you with a support group of other people who share your diagnosis, which could help you feel less alone.

Why a Diagnosis Matters

Names Your Experience

It can be validating to have a name for the things you are dealing with. Additionally, a diagnosis can help you understand that you are not alone. There are often large communities of people coping with the same challenges. A formal diagnosis can help you feel certain that you can explain what you’re going through. It will also encourage you to research how to access your community and gain new resources.

Going through life without a proper diagnosis can put a lot of stress on the individual, because you may not understand why certain things (i.e. paying attention, staying on task, etc.) feel so challenging for you. This stress may lead to the feeling that you must hide your true self from people, which can make it even harder to find a diagnosis, because the people in your support system may not recognize that you are struggling.


A formal diagnosis will also give you access to the treatment that best fits your experiences. The mental health provider you’re working with will help you work through coping resources and may be able to provide medication as well if that is needed. Having a formal diagnosis grants you access to the tools and resources you need to receive adequate support while navigating life’s challenges.

If you’re looking to seek out mental health treatment, Trust Mental Health could be a great resource. Our therapists are trained to help you get the diagnosis and treatment that meets your needs. We offer therapy in sixteen different languages. Book a free 15-minute consultation today.

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