The internet has come a long way since I was a kid. I remember patiently waiting as I listened to the dial tone of my computer as it logged onto AOL (America Online). I remember joining my first chat room filled with strangers and asking the popular question “A/S/L?” I even recall getting mad at my mom for logging me offline by making a phone call.
Today, we have instant access to any information we could possibly want. We also have multiple tools to do it. Most individuals own a computer, a tablet, and a phone, all of which can access the web at any given time. With “logging on” becoming easier now more than ever, it also poses some serious dangers for our society. One such danger is self-diagnosis.
Self-Diagnosis is the act of diagnosing or identifying a medical or psychological condition by oneself. The internet has become a go-to when it comes to finding out information. At some point, I think most people have checked their symptoms on WebMD. As a result of this easily accessible information, many people experience negative symptoms and immediately search for the cause online.
The reason this is a concern of mine is I see what it is doing to some people. It not only has become a crutch for negative behavior (such as self-medication, an excuse, or causes stagnation), but has also led to overlooking serious problems that could have been treated. Diagnosis is something that should be done by a licensed professional, not Google.
It is time to address this issue to the masses and give people a little reality-check. Below I will discuss some of the popular diagnoses that are floating around and being misused. It’s time for people to get real or get help.
“I have an anxiety disorder.” I hear a lot of people tell me this. They feel stressed at work, they feel stressed in social situations, they feel stressed at home. According to many articles online, this would qualify a person for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Observing the criteria for a Generalized Anxiety Disorder (via DSM-5) diagnosis, offers a different picture. According to surveys of the general population, only 4-6% of people have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
In order to qualify for a diagnosis, an individual must match a specific set of criteria. Some of these include excessive anxiety and worry for more than six months, inability to control the worry, and it must result in numerous negative symptoms. This type of diagnosis CANNOT be made by an individual themselves because of personal bias. Licensed therapists are professionally trained to determine the severity of an individual’s anxiety. They only diagnose if the individual meets the necessary criteria.
In a world that places a strong emphasis on financial success, popularity, and constant competition, the pressure can sometimes be overwhelming. This does not mean someone has an anxiety disorder. Most stressful or anxiety causing situations can be reduced by applying simple practices into a daily routine.
“I have depression” The term “depression” has become popular in modern culture. Many individuals believe that they are depressed because they are sad. They lost a loved one, broke up with their significant other, got laid off from their job. There are numerous reasons as to why people feel depressed, but are they truly suffering from depression?
It is very possible someone could be experiencing immense sadness or a case of “the blues,” but the odds of being clinically depressed would be unlikely in most cases. Only about 6% of the population has Major Depressive Disorder.
Furthermore, the criteria required to fit the diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder is very specific and difficult to meet in most cases. In my opinion, most individuals who feel “depressed” are usually going through some sort of grief related to a current life experience. This is a natural human experience. Individuals with Major Depressive Disorder often experience negative symptoms for no reason at all. These immense feelings of sadness (which can lean to suicidal ideations) impair their ability to carry out normal everyday tasks.
People who misdiagnose themselves as depressed can easily rebound from their negative feelings. Their sadness does not prevent them from getting out of bed every day and going on with life. These people still engage in enjoyable activities and still have future goals and aspirations. Individuals with depression experience little to no joy in doing anything and often experience severe hopelessness.
Sadness, disappointment, tragedy, insecurity, these are all things that are unavoidable in life. They are often caused by outside forces that are beyond the individual’s control. These feelings do not qualify one to be clinically depressed because there is a clear and tangible light at the end of the tunnel for these situations. We have the ability to overcome and continue along our path.
“I have ADD/ADHD” A psychological disorder recognized by the APA in 1987, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) has become one of the most widely diagnosed disorders given today. ADHD became a popular diagnosis for children in the late 90s and early 2000s, but has now become a commonly self-diagnosed disorder among adults. Characterized by inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, many individuals believe that they have this disorder.
ADHD is a serious disorder in that the ability to learn and keep focus on a given activity is extremely difficult and can severely impact the quality of one’s life. Today we live in a society with constant distraction. With media that sends a wave of information and sensory arousing content, to cell phones that connects the population instantly, it’s no wonder holding attention is so difficult nowadays.
This overwhelming amount of information and constant connection has become a standard way of living in our society. It is expected to have the ability to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, but this is not the way we were built.
This generation has been conditioned to seek out instant gratification and reject anything that takes an immense amount of focus. This does not mean we all have ADD/ADHD, it simply means that we need to retrain our minds to maintain focus on one project at a time.
Here is the thing. If you are feeling down, anxious, or overwhelmed by life, this does not mean you have a disorder. Most people experience constant stress, sadness, and difficulty focusing throughout their lives. In a world where we face constant pressure to be rich, good looking, successful, and better than anyone else, it would be disturbing if you didn’t experience any of these feelings at some point.
If you are experiencing these feelings, that does NOT mean you need a Xanax to feel better. It doesn’t mean you have some excuse as to why you can’t reach your goals. It means you need to take a look at what activities you can do to reduce these symptoms and there are plenty out there. Some of these practices include diet, exercise, meditation, journaling, and time management. The answers are out there and they don’t come from a bottle. If you need help reducing some of these symptoms, seek the help of a life coach. They will help you.
On a serious note, if you truly do feel that you are suffering from a disorder, do NOT diagnose yourself. It is vital to your own well-being that you seek the help of a licensed mental health professional. There is a reason why they exist. Give them the opportunity to assess your experiences and help you get through what ails you.
Self-Diagnosis can be unproductive and in many cases harmful to a person’s well-being. It is important to seek out a life coach to teach the many tools that are available in overcoming these feelings of stress, sadness, and inattention. If you truly believe that what you are experiencing is beyond your own control, it is vital that you seek help from a licensed mental health professional. Your future self will thank you later.
If you or someone you know has any serious thoughts about committing suicide, please seek immediate professional help or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.