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Dangerous new TikTok trend encourages teens to diagnose themselves with rare personality disorders

Posted at 6:00 AM, Feb 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-11 11:22:28-05

FRANKLIN — A dangerous new trend is popping up on the social media site, TikTok, and health experts want parents and caregivers to be aware of what is out there.

According to a recent report by Good Morning America, a new TikTok trend could lead more teens to self-diagnose themselves with rare and serious mental disorders. The video app appears to have more and more videos of young people claiming to have rare borderline personality, bipolar or identity disorders. Videos with these hashtags have been viewed millions of times.

Lindsey Wakefield is a senior psychology student at Franklin College in Johnson County, and while she said she is not on the platform, she is well-aware of this growing trend based on conversations she has had with peers and family members.

"For example, people post about a symptom that they have, that they say is part of ADHD, and I'm like 'Yeah, I can see that being a part of ADHD.' And then later on in the thread people are like, 'Oh my gosh, I have ADHD because I do this as well,'" Wakefield said.

And some of the mental health issues trending are even more rare or serious than ADHD.

"For example, one of my cousins came up to me and was like 'I think I have schizophrenia,' and she was talking to me about all of what she does and I'm like for one, let's calm down," Wakefield said.

Her physchology professor, Jamie Bromley, teaches an abnormal psychology class at Franklin College. She said some of these symptoms like nervousness or feeling anxious are normal feelings we all get at times, and there is a range from what is typical to things that greatly impact your day-to-day life.

She said these videos can often be inaccurate and many highlight disorders that are extremely rare in the population. She encourages even her students not to try and self-diagnose or diagnose others because this is still a more entry-level, undergraduate course and it takes more knowledge and experience to give a diagnosis.

"So it takes a lot of training and it takes a lot of experience to be able to diagnose, so the only people who can really provide a psychological diagnosis are licensed professionals," Bromley said.

Bromley said with social media becoming a growing part of life, there is more and more research on the psychological impacts of these sites, especially on young people and it is always a topic of discussion in her classes at the college.

"How is this affecting, you know, cognitive processes, emotional behavioral, and what are the long term effects, you know, both positive and negative," Bromley said.

Wakefield is an avid reader and said she doesn't have much time to spend on social media sites and can see how it adds to procrastination and how it can be dangerous for younger people. She said growing up, they had fairly open communication at home about what was on the web, but she remembers an important part of keeping her sanity online in her teen years were supportive friends.

"Having those like friends around you who know what you're getting into and having those affirmation buddies to make sure that you are not going in too deep, or if you are, they are there to help bring you back out," Wakefield said.

Bromley adds parents need to be aware of the social media platforms, what is on them, and work to keep an open line of communication with their children and teens.

"And if they are trying to figure something out through self-diagnosis maybe something is going on, but maybe not that rare disorder that they diagnosed themselves with," Bromley said. "Maybe they are feeling some symptoms of depression or some symptoms of anxiety and they need some support."

Bromley said for caregivers, it is important to set boundaries by age and maturity. Help your child set limits. Help them learn to resist social pressures. They need allies to do this, so encourage them to talk to you about things that are happening in their life, including their mental health.

She said research shows the younger kids engage in social media, the more problematic it can be and it's important to make all of these decisions as a family like when kids are able to get their first phone and when they will be allowed on these social media platforms.

As for Wakefield, she is on her way to graduating with a major in psychology and a minor in Spanish from Franklin College and is currently applying for graduate programs.

She hopes to use her education to eventually help people in the Spanish-speaking community get the help and support they need to work through trauma. She said through her internships, she sees a need for more of these services and advocates in the minority communities and hopes someday she can contribute to providing the best care for people in these communities in central Indiana.


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