TikTok Is The Fastest Growing News Source For UK Adults
We've all done it.
A weird feeling in your stomach, a sudden headache, your eye twitching randomly - the first thing you do is head to the internet to figured out what medical diagnosis to give yourself. Suddenly that headache is a rare terminal brain cancer and your eye twitching is a sign of a rare parasitic infection.
According to a study from Pew Research Center, 35 percent of US adults use the internet to figure out their medical condition. The CDC estimates that 61 percent of people have used the internet at some point to access health information.
Younger people are more likely to self-diagnose themselves using the internet and with the rise of TikTok, an app that gives each user personalized content every day, more people are using it as a tool to diagnose themselves - with potentially terrifying consequences.
On Reddit’s Health Anxiety forum, one person said they convinced themselves they had a form of cancer after seeing a video on their For Your Page.
They said: “I was perfectly fine until I saw a very triggering video of young girl who had lymphoma. I convinced myself that all my symptoms matched hers. No-one understands how terrifying and real this feels.”
Others say they've wrongly convinced themselves they had autism, anxiety, or depression, based on videos served to them on the app.
Another urged people to quit the app altogether, saying: “I guarantee you I'll see a video of someone sharing their story of how they had some rare terminal illness for years and had no idea … It makes me spiral. It is just toxic for my mental health. If you're experiencing this, considering ditching the app.”
It’s something doctors are increasingly concerned about. Behavioral health expert Adeola Adelayo said there has been an unusual spike in mental health cases in hospitals - which is partly attributed to social media apps such as TikTok.
“We’ve seen an explosion of Tourette-like tics in our unit and every single case has been linked with watching countless TikTok videos about people with Tourette syndrome.
“These kids don’t have Tourette’s, but they aren’t pretending either. They have a functional movement disorder as a result of stress and possibly underlying anxiety or depression which may or may not have been properly diagnosed.”
Unlike older generations, Gen Z is far more likely to share their experience with mental health issues. The American Psychological Association said the generation is 37 percent more likely to report if they sought treatment from a mental health professional than Millennials or Gen X or Baby Boomers.
This means more young people are sharing their symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments for mental health disorders - which can be great for breaking the stigma and educating others.
But it's not so great for people who easily fall into the self-diagnosis hole, especially if the creator is undiagnosed themselves, or promoting 'undiagnosed symptoms' that are also just common behaviors in people.
Literally why my wrists are weak. #onlyinmycalvins #PringlesCanHands #brokenwristsyndrome #austismcheck #myasd
Psychotherapist Akua Boateng told Everyday Health: “Social media is a first line of information for a huge demographic. Many millennials and Generation Z members check social media more than the news, which makes the information received there extremely valuable.”
One psychiatrist urged people to approach experts for health diagnosis - as getting it wrong based on flawed information can be deadly.
Dr. Michael J. McGrath, a psychiatrist and the medical director of the Ohana Luxury Alcohol Rehab in Hawaii, told Salon: "Self-diagnosing a mental health disorder based on social media is a very dangerous trend.
"Many mental health disorders can lead to fatal outcomes if not diagnosed and treated properly. A person should never use information that they see or read about online to determine if they have a mental health disorder or to determine what treatment they need."
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