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Tik Tok self-diagnoses

lenasolano's picture

Self-diagnosing mental illness or disability has always been a practice I struggle with in theory and action. By nature, people crave a sense of belonging and an understanding of themselves. A community — bound together by a label — offers both. While there are some identities that one can choose to align oneself with in order to pursue this group membership, “disabled” is not one. 

In looking to explain why they are the way they are, and to validate their struggles, I think some jump at the opportunity to claim an identity and set of experiences. A huge part of this issue is misinformation.* It seems perfectly reasonable to assume you might have ADHD when every other video on your timeline is telling you that if you have trouble falling asleep sometimes or if you sit weird in chairs you have ADHD (yes, I have seen this multiple times cited as “a sign of ADHD”). Publicly identifying with a learning disability when you don’t have one is not only insulting to people actually struggling with the disorder, but also takes away legitimacy from the label. 

For me, the complicating factor is that standard diagnostic processes and common understandings of disability do not always acknowledge the diversity of presentation/experience of disability and mental illness across underrepresented populations. For example, the only reason I began to pursue an ADHD diagnosis was because of the Tik Toks I saw about how the disorder presents differently and is underdiagnosed in women. No one in my life (family/teachers/psychiatrists etc.) even considered that this diagnosis might explain some of the behavior we would categorize as perfectionism or anxiety. I was very apprehensive about falling victim to the above described phenomenon, but in the end, it was my persistence and knowledge from non-experts on the internet that allowed me to get the medication I always needed. If I get started on how implicit biases affect formal diagnoses, this will quickly become an essay so I’ll leave it here!

*shoutout Claire’s midterm!