31 Days of Bipolar, Day 4: The dangers of self-diagnosis

How do you feel about people who diagnose themselves online and then treat themselves for bipolar?

I’ve seen a lot of people get angry over this because it’s immature and minimises what the accurately diagnosed sufferers go through.

Honestly, I don’t give a shit about that. If that’s the only problem with it, then I can just leave that as their problem and keep living my life unaffected.  

But that’s not the only problem. Self diagnosis is not only irresponsible, it’s dangerous.

Firstly, you cannot accurately diagnose yourself. The whole point of mental illness is that your mind and perceptions are fucked up. Don’t pretend you can be an accurate judge of it. You may get it right, but you’re way more likely not to. Even the experts get diagnosed by someone else.

And if you self-diagnose and then feel like you can treat yourself, well, I have yet to meet anyone who can battle this without professional help

But what if I do go to professional help? It’s ok then, right? 

Come and sit on aunt Joy’s lap and I’ll tell you a little story.

When I was 15 I started to suffer extreme anxiety to the point of being disfunctional. I decided to go to therapy, and told them straight up that I had anxiety. It seemed so obvious. And I got help in therapy that I still use to this day.

The problem?

Because my mind was so set on anxiety, I interpreted the other things that were happening incorrectly. I thought the depressive episode I had earlier was a natural reaction to the bullying that was occurring. I thought the paranoia and mild hallucinations were caused by the anxiety, and not the other way around.

I know what some of you are thinking – if I was getting professional help, surely they should have picked up the signs. But the thing about preconceptions is that they affect the way we talk about things.

I never told the therapist that I had been depressed, only that I struggled with bullying. I never told the therapist that I believed men would sexually assault me, just that I was afraid they would. Even when she asked about my family history I explained the anxiety on my mother’s side, and only mentioned the Bipolar and Depression on my dad’s side as an afterthought.

And this wasn’t “one bad therapist”; this happened over and over with good quality ones because that’s how I talked about it. I was just lucky that my psychiatrist was enough of a hardass to see my preconceptions as what they were: misconceptions.

The moral of the story is that if you convince yourself that you have something, regardless of if you seek professional help or not, it’s likely to screw you over.

But that’s not to say you shouldn’t research or get an idea of what’s wrong.

Understanding an illness is an important thing, and researching beforehand to get an idea of what might be wrong isn’t so bad in itself – it can give your therapist or doctor a starting point to diagnose you, and see how you feel about yourself. After all, you know your thoughts and behaviours best (even with a biased perspective).

Provided you don’t use this information to assume anything or colour the way you talk about your potential illness, research away.

3 thoughts on “31 Days of Bipolar, Day 4: The dangers of self-diagnosis

  1. Hey Joy, I really loved this post – again 😉 I agree with you on this. At least where there is severe mental illness like bipolar or schizophrenia and such. I loved your story about how therapists can only diagnose what you tell them and that it takes a long time to extract the actual core of the illness by looking behind what the patient/client is saying. I myself do not deal with bipolar and such because I am not qualified. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have people with serious disorders in my practice, simply because they were never diagnosed. And it really takes a while and a detective’s mind to get to that core. However, here in Germany, it’s hard to be diagnosed, because it’s hard to come by an appointment. In my town you have to wait at least nine months, up to two years. Who can wait that long? So sometimes people don’t have a choice but to a) get radical enough to be permitted into hospital and/or b) try to diagnose themselves or c) go to a free coach or consultant like me. Also I believe that, at least the way it is handled here, the classic psychotherapy has limits, especially to dealing with feelings. I love to consult Rüdiger Dahlke. He has a very different take on illness in general and mental illness in particular. So IF you do get an appointment over here, be sure you try to take a multi-professional path… Okay, so much for today 😉 I wish you all the Best!

    Liked by 1 person

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