For many young adults and teenagers, TikTok is a familiar app filled with lighthearted dances, funny animal videos and goofy stories to provide entertainment for hours.
However, since the first year of its initial release in 2016, TikTok has become a breeding ground for the spread of misinformation that can result in faulty self-diagnoses for many of its daily users.
According to an article published on October 29, 2022, in the New York Times titled “Teens Turn to TikTok in Search for A Mental Health Diagnosis,” mental health providers are seeing a dramatic rise in the cases of adolescents and young adults who claim to have mental health disorders because of symptoms that the all-knowing Dr. TikTok diagnosed them with.
TikTok is a widely used social media platform that has helped normalize public discussions of mental illness in an effort to help remove the negative stigma surrounding mental health issues. The disorders that have caught the most attention are ADHD, OCD, dissociative disorder as well as anxiety and depression.
One of the most popular videos includes “Signs that You Have…” In these videos, the TikTok creators focus on symptoms that are so general that virtually any individual could have them like: 1) forgetfulness, 2) daydreaming, and 3) lack of focus. Even though these symptoms are commonly associated with ADHD, they are so vague that they could also mean a lot of other disorders.
This is because disorders like ADHD and other disorders are on a unique spectrum of how severe or noticeable they are to the public.
As someone who deals with ADHD daily, I can tell you confidently that TikTok won’t tell you what it means to be clinically diagnosed with a mental disorder. Additional symptoms like the higher risk of substance abuse or impulsivity while in dangerous situations, constant thoughts or problems with filtering information in a conversation are also a part of some ADHD cases.
It won’t tell you about the hard work that you have to do to keep your grades up or maintain strong relationships with your classmates. ADHD and other mental disorders aren’t a crazy trait to add to your personality because you want to be different. Now I am not trying to disrespect TikTok or TikTok creators because I don’t know what they do and don’t go through on a daily basis, much less what they have been diagnosed with.
According to a webpage published on Nov. 14, 2021, by Millennium Medical Associates which is an ADHD treatment group for adults, titled the “Pros and Cons of ADHD” said that people with ADHD often have problems with education and maintaining their job or careers because information and memory is more difficult to retain compared to others who don’t suffer from the disorder.
The discussion on mental health is beginning to gain normalcy in our society, but it still has a long way to go before it becomes a topic that fosters meaningful discussions and positive outcomes.
So, if you take anything meaningful from this particular article, let it be that Dr. TikTok doesn’t always have all of the answers when it comes to mental health and mental disorders aren’t always how the media portrays them to be.