self diagnosing is on the rise

With global internet access, people can now read information on almost any topic at their fingertips. This is particularly tempting for those curious about private experiences and health-related issues. While the accuracy of online information is questionable, it remains a free option in a costly healthcare system. Additionally, finding a trustworthy and safe professional can be challenging. Some individuals feel misdiagnosed or dismissed by their providers, leading to a sense of comfort and control when attempting to diagnose themselves.

However, self-diagnosing carries significant risks. Personal bias and lack of medical background can lead to incorrect conclusions. It’s essential to consult a medical professional to validate any self-diagnosis and seek additional opinions if necessary. An accurate diagnosis should consider the individual’s cultural background, which self-diagnosis often overlooks, particularly outside the Western framework.

Can I Self-Diagnose Anxiety and Depression Online?

It is increasingly common for people to self-diagnose anxiety, depression, and even neurodivergence. While it is possible to identify certain symptoms like excessive worry, restlessness, loss of interest, fatigue, persistent sadness, increased heart rate, and changes in sleep and diet as related to cognitive and psychological issues, these symptoms can overlap with many mental health disorders and even physical conditions, making it difficult for someone without professional training to label accurately. Misdiagnosis can lead to ineffective or harmful self-treatment, potentially exacerbating the condition.

It is estimated that 83% of mental health videos online come from lived or anecdotal evidence rather than verifiable evidence (Jaramillo, 2023). This is good as a conversation starter, but the accuracy, reliability, and validity of the information presented online are questionable and should raise questions for self-diagnosis. Sometimes self-diagnosis is more confirmation bias than scientific confirmation.

the dangers of self-diagnosis

The Risks of Self-Diagnosis

  • Incomplete or Inaccurate Diagnoses: Self-diagnosis can miss alternative conditions or the presence of multiple conditions (comorbidities, co-occurring disorders). This misunderstanding can mask different underlying conditions or mimic each other’s symptoms.
  • Over-Identification with Illness: Individuals might glorify or use a diagnosis to justify problematic behaviors, hindering personal growth. Algorithms reinforcing this identification can create a feedback loop, strengthening the belief in the self-diagnosis, and perpetuating self-fulfilling prophecies.
  • Unnecessary Worry and Distress: Inaccurate information can lead to anxiety and avoidance of medical or psychological professionals. This perpetuates anxiety and worsens symptoms, as individuals may mislabel symptoms and assimilate them into their identity.
  • Subjectivity and Cultural Influence: Self-diagnosis can be influenced by popular science and culture, leading to stigmatized diagnoses being ignored due to shame.

The Benefits of Self-Diagnosis

  • Immediate Relief: Having an idea of what one might be dealing with can be reassuring. Considering multiple possibilities can be less distressing than fixating on one fatal possibility.
  • Accessibility: Access to quality healthcare can be difficult or unaffordable for many. Online searches can provide a sense of direction and motivate individuals to reach out to their doctors, which might not have happened otherwise.
  • Privacy: Online searches are not embarrassing, whereas some patients feel awkward asking certain questions to medical professionals. Patients may also have little trust in their providers or the healthcare system.

Tips for Safe Online Mental Health Research:

  • Emergency Situations: If you are having a medical emergency, visit the ER, urgent care, or dial 9-1-1. Do not spend time online searching for answers.
  • Delay Impulses: Try to delay the urge to search your symptoms online. This helps build resilience and tolerance of uncertainty. Use distraction methods to delay the urge, then re-evaluate the need to check symptoms after a set amount of time.
  • Consult Professionals: The body and mind can feel unusual and uncomfortable from time to time. Mild symptoms are not always indicative of a serious illness. Consult with a medical doctor or psychological professional instead of caving into every noticeable sensation and searching for answers.
  • Limit Online Exposure: Review what you’re exposed to on social media and the internet at large. Sometimes algorithms will continuously generate fear-based and sensationalized content on your feed, locking you in a state of uncertainty.

While self-diagnosis can offer immediate benefits, it carries significant risks and should be approached with caution. Always consult with a medical professional to validate any self-diagnosis and seek additional opinions if necessary. Balancing online research with professional advice is crucial for maintaining accurate and effective mental health care.

At PCI, we strive to always offer free online resources to help people navigate mental health and substance use symptoms and treatment. If you’re facing issues that are symptomatic of a mental health or substance use condition, contact us today to speak with a care coordinator who can schedule a comprehensive assessment with you as soon as possible. We put you first.


1. Corzine, A., & Roy, A. (2024). Inside the Black Mirror: Current Perspectives on the role of social media in mental illness self-diagnosis. Discover Psychology, 4(1).

2. Farnood, A., Johnston, B., & Mair, F. S. (2020). A mixed methods systematic review of the effects of patient online self-diagnosing in the ‘smart-phone society’ on the healthcare professional-patient relationship and Medical Authority. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 20(1).

3. Jaramillo, J. (2023, April 10). Down The Rabbit Hole of Self-Diagnosis in Mental Health. Lynx Life Library.

4. McVay, E. (2023, August 31). Social media and self-diagnosis. Johns Hopkins Medicine.

5. Zucker, B. (2022, August 22). Do you have Cyberchondria?. Psychology Today.,stuck%20in%20the%20anxiety%20cycle