The oversimplification of mental health

We’ve all heard people within our social circle say things like, “I’m so OCD!” “I think I’m narcissistic” or “She’s so bipolar.” Many of us casually use these psychological diagnosis terms to label ourselves or others, but the question remains: do we actually know what the diagnosis entails?

People are more aware of various psychopathologies or illnesses due to informative mental health content on social media. But with easy access to mental health information, there is the danger of oversimplifying mental health issues and self-diagnosing tendencies that can harm our well-being.

During my teenage years, I was afraid of being judged, I had difficulty interacting with strangers and I was afraid of humiliating myself. I had even researched all the symptoms and convinced myself that I had social anxiety disorder. I never went for a psychiatric diagnosis or sought help from a therapist. Instead, I just labeled myself as someone with anxiety, and at times almost wore it as a badge of honor.

Years later, when I became a mental health professional, I realized that I did NOT have the disorder. I still remember the idea my supervisor gave me – for any of these symptom clusters to qualify as a disorder, it must be pervasive and persistent.

The question to ask would be, my supervisor informed me, does the disorder affect daily functioning at school, work, with family and friends? If so, the problem is considered pervasive. And how often do the symptoms appear? A month? Or at least two weeks? If it repeats, the problem is considered persistent.

I had social anxiety as a teenager, but put simply, it just wasn’t a disorder.

Over the past three years, the pandemic has had a detrimental impact on mental health, resulting in a marked increase in the number of adolescents and young adults using social media/online information to diagnose themselves with various types of mental illnesses.

While easy access to mental health information has led many people to seek the help they need, it has also led many to self-identify as having a disorder or illness without getting professional evaluation (as I did) and sometimes even resorting to ineffective or inappropriate treatments. .

As I mentioned before, we heard people around us say, “Such and such is so OCD. She wants everything to be in order in life” or “I think

I have OCD because I like a routine schedule”. But again, just because someone likes things a certain way doesn’t mean they have OCD. If the person can function normally despite this, it would be better to label them as being organized rather than having the disorder.

For a formal diagnosis to be made, the psychologist should consider the range of experiences the individual has had, which includes the interval between symptoms and their duration, whether the symptoms affect the person’s ability to function in the day . daily life, sleep, appetite, mood and motivation. For example, when a person is diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, their compulsions are so debilitating that they cannot keep up with their studies or work effectively. Their obsessive thoughts would affect their relationships with loved ones so much that they would create distance and conflict between them.

Moreover, the danger of misdiagnosis always remains. People in different age groups may experience different symptoms for the same underlying disorder. For example, a child showing anger and aggression can mean depression, unlike the adult version, where symptoms can show as feeling weak and lacking energy.

However, we also cannot ignore all the positive impacts of social media on mental health. For many young people struggling with mental health issues, social media has also served as a safety net and place to feel a sense of belonging with others struggling with similar issues.

Social media is a great platform to get an idea of ​​the importance of mental health and various mental disorders. But if you think you have a mental health problem, an appointment with a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, counselor or therapist would be the way to go.

It should also be noted that we do not need to have a mental disorder to speak to a mental health professional. In fact, it’s a huge myth that we need to get rid of. All individuals face challenges in their daily lives. Seeking counseling and therapy can help us deal with our stressors and get the emotional support we need.

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