Thoughts On Self-Diagnosing

Many people struggle to acknowledge when they are having trouble with their mental health, and this happens for a few reasons. First, stigma about what it means to have mental illness can put people in denial about their symptoms. They don’t want to be labeled “crazy” or “unstable.” Second, mental health is health that relates to your brain. Your brain is the organ that is supposed to alert you when something is wrong, so when the issue is in your brain, it can be harder to label.

That being said, it is possible and common to notice mental health symptoms in yourself. This is especially true in the age of the internet, where education about mental health is more available than ever before, and people are more likely to realize that their difficulties aren’t just due to “laziness” (I hate that word, but that’s a topic for another day).

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Although the internet is also filled with false information about mental health, there are a number of helpful websites that can give good information about different mental illnesses, as well as online communities for moral support and to help people feel less alone. This, combined with poor access to mental health resources, can lead to people identifying with a diagnosis that has not been given by a mental health professional.

Now, as far as treatment plans go, an accurate diagnosis is very helpful because there is symptom overlap for many mental illnesses, and diagnoses with similar presentations might respond best to different treatments. This is why I spent five years in graduate school and why they pay me the…um, medium bucks.

That being said, no one knows you like yourself. Sure, OCD and anxiety can manifest similarly (or you can have both). Someone might come to me to be evaluated for OCD, and I might find that their symptoms better fit a diagnosis of Social Anxiety Disorder, but they were still right to notice that something was wrong and they needed support. But you would be surprised how often someone guesses their diagnosis before I tell them my professional opinion.

If you find yourself identifying with a set of symptoms, and engaging with that community helps you, I feel like that can only lead to more support for more people. The rise of telehealth should make psychological evaluations and treatment accessible to more people, but in the meantime, increased self-understanding and community support is a wonderful thing.

Published by Amy Marschall, Psy.D.

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. Her clinical interests are varied and include child and adolescent therapy, TF-CBT, rural psychology, telemental health, sexual and domestic violence, psychological assessment, and mental illness prevention. Dr. Marschall presently works in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at Sioux Falls Psychological Services in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she provides individual and family therapy and psychological assessment to children, adolescents, and college students. She also facilitates an art therapy group for adolescents and college students with anxiety and depression. Dr. Amy Marschall is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Telemental Health.

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