Mental Health and Self-Diagnosing

Labels are nice, they're comforting. We like to use labels to explain ourselves and often to excuse our behavior.

I see people using labels all the time, especially on my community college campus:

"Oh, sorry I got upset last night, I'm a Scorpio." 

"I'm passing this class because of my type 9 tendencies." 

"Ehh, we wouldn't work, our star signs clash." 

"It's because I'm an ESFJ." 

The majority of y'all probably rolled your eyes at these statements.

How can one base their whole identity on personality tests that depend entirely on your mood and your perception of yourself which can be extremely biased?

How can people explain their actions with pseudoscience?

You see, we can realize that labeling ourselves in these ways and using it to box ourselves into a type is more harmful than helpful, but let's talk about a more serious offender I hear people, especially teens, use:

"I can't because of my anxiety." 

"Sorry I flipped, I have a bipolar disorder."

"I'm too depressed to talk to people."

"I have really bad social anxiety." 

I've hesitated to write this post because I don't want to come off as insensitive to the people who are actually struggling with mental health or even the people who think they are.

"I have schizophrenia." a friend told me once.

As someone who has family members and friends with family members who have schizophrenia, bipolar, and a number of other mental illnesses, I immediately felt for this person.

"What core symptoms do you have?" I asked.

"Core symptoms?"

"Well, what did your doctor tell you about it and how are you being treated?"

"Oh, I haven't gone to the doctor. I just know I have it." 

"Oh.. okay. It gets worse over time if untreated, you should go in to see what your options are." Loving acting really has paid off in keeping my face straight in times like this.

Did this person have schizophrenia? Well, let's look at the core symptoms:

Hallucinations, delusions, or disorganized speech for at least one month. 

Maybe they did, but it's doubtful that this erratic behavior would go unnoticed by the people in their life. 

This was the first time an undiagnosed person claimed to have schizophrenia in front of me, but I have had teens claiming to have anxiety, bipolar, depression, and mania....

none of them have been to their doctors or talked to an adult that they trust.

None of them show core symptoms.

As someone who really struggled with suicidal thoughts and depressive behavior and went to a therapist for it, I want to say how offensive and silencing people like this are, even if they don't mean to be.

"Everyone has social anxiety," stated my psychology professor during a lecture. "If someone tells you that they have social anxiety just reply "No joke, you're human, you idiot.""  

Everyone has bad days, weeks, or even months. Everyone has mood swings at times.

"I want to die," I whispered once, tears in my eyes.
"Sameee," A girl who overheard me laughed. "I'm so depressed." 
No... like really. I thought.

My therapist told me that while I was depressed and had depressive behaviors, I didn't have depression.

Depression causes significant impairment in daily life, and I was still getting out of bed in the morning, I was still talking to friends.


I did a post on the romanticism of sadness on Lia's blog, which you can read here, but I need to repeat it again:

Mental illness isn't cute, it isn't romantic, it doesn't make you deep. Do you hear that tumblr users and YA authors?

I was also reading a few articles on self-diagnosis in preparation for this post and a Psychology Today article that I stumbled across made a point from an angle I hadn't thought of before: 

"One of the greatest dangers of self-diagnosis in psychological syndromes is that you may miss a medical disease that masquerades as a psychiatric syndrome. Thus, if you have panic disorder, you may miss the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism or an irregular heartbeat. Even more serious is the fact that some brain tumors may present with changes in personality or psychosis or even depression. If you assume you have depression and treat it with an over-the-counter preparation, you may completely miss a medical syndrome. Even if you do not want conventional treatment for depression, you may want conventional treatment for a brain tumor."-Psychology Today, 2010, The Dangers of Self-Diagnosis

This is an aspect I hadn't considered before, but it's true! 

My mom use to have a lot of mood swings and struggled with anger, instead of just going to WebMD and saying she had a "border personality disorder" (yes, I've met undiagnosed people who believe they do, most of them teens who are just going through the tough teen years like the rest of us), she went to her doctor. Turns out she had low iron. 

If you're reading this and you have a mental illness label that you gave yourself, stop

Go to a doctor, go to a therapist if you have problems, don't go to google.

Yes, Google has answers, but you're not a doctor, you're not a psychologist, you cannot diagnose anyone, including yourself.

This is your wake up call, your actions are harmful to yourself and others. Stop.

Rant over. 


  1. I used to be one of those people that would say "Yeah, it's because of my anxiety, lol" too...until my brother was medically diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and then it got real. I suddenly started paying attention and seeing just glimpses of how hard it was for him to fight every day. And I realized that wasn't the same as what I thought was an anxiety disorder.
    I think another reason why mental illness labels are tossed around so casually is because now people see it as a joke, and *mental illness is not a joke.* My biggest issue now is that it's become a joke on tumblr, insta, snapchat, etc. where people can "like" MI joke posts. They don't ever consider what they're "liking." I have so many friends who, like you said, are just going through teenage stages and always complain about their self-diagnosed anxiety and depression, and now I tell them to go talk to a doctor if they think they have a mental illness. Not surprisingly, most of them don't talk or if they do they don't have an MI. :/
    But yes, I agree with everything you said.

    1. YES to everything in this comment, and you said it so gracefully! Thank you!!

  2. WOW.
    Thank you for this.
    You made me feel really guilty actually...in the last while I realized how I have not been officially diagnosed for depression or anxiety...at first I would say I am depressed or I feel anxiety...then I fell into a pattern of saying "I have depression," etc.
    My mom is a nurse. She knows when I have panic attacks and anxiety attacks. But I need to go back to restating, to watching what I say, to being honest to the core.
    Thanks again!

    1. <3 <3
      It's always good to take a deeper look, I've done the same thing as well in the past.

  3. Self diagnosing is so dangerous. Great post!

  4. WOW>> SO INTERESTING AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING. Thanks for this, Gray. <333

  5. I think there is a difference between finding what is wrong with you, just realizing you are going through hard teen years, and making up things that you think is wrong with you.
    Very interesting post!


    1. There is for sure, everyone goes through tough times especially in adolescence because that is the time of change and transition.

  6. I really agree with a lot of what you're saying here. But also, it's possible to research and do natural things without a doctor, though I wouldn't necessary recommend that to everyone if they aren't educated in what natural things work. Since my grandfather is naturopathic doctor and my mom knows a lot about health, I have an advantage, and understand things like low iron and needed exercise and herbs and such. To a degree, of course. Like I can help myself, but I wouldn't be able to help others as easily, as I know how I'm feeling and know from experience and such.
    Anyways, I agree we need to stop claiming labels and letting them excuse things that can be easily fixed whether with education or with doctors.

    MB> keturahskorner.blogspot.com
    PB> thegirlwhodoesntexist.com

    1. I agree with the natural way as well, in fact that's the way we have gone. The problem is when people claim to have serious neurological problems and aren't seeking the help they would need for such a dangerous condition.
      And unfortunately, a lot of people with more mild mental health problems aren't educated enough on natural medicine to immediately know what the problem is and how to treat it, even if you don't want to use the prescribed medication, it is good to see a professional to help you pin point the main issue for the majority of people.
      Although, I'm glad you're going the natural route, so are we now!

  7. This is such an eye-opening post, Gray! Thank you for this message <333

  8. You've really opened my eyes with this post, Gray. i went to the doctor and was diagnosed with anxiety. But i've never gone to anyone for my depression. i didn't really think i needed to because i could feel it in me and the people around me noticed that there was something wrong as well. So i never really felt the need to go to a doctor for it. But after reading this, i think i might :)

    Thank you for writing such moving words. <3 <3

    1. Well, I hope whatever you decide to do proves to be the best for you!
      Doctors won't always give you medicine, they might recommend you to a psychologists or just figure out if there's a nutrient deficiency that is causing your depressive thoughts / behaviors.

      Best of luck to you, friend <33

  9. I like this post. As someone who’s actually been diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder and ADD, I feel this on a deep level. I’m constantly around people who claim to have anxiety or depression and while I would never say anything to invalidate them, it does make me wonder because I know for certain that at least some of them have not been diagnosed officially by a therapist or a psychologist.

    I think it’s a slippery slope that you handled in a delicate and graceful way. We don’t want to invalidate people’s feelings (because let’s face it, everyone experiences some level of anxiety or sadness and such in their life), but saying you HAVE depression or anxiety or another form of mental illness is a serious matter, especially to those of us who actually ARE diagnosed by doctors.

    I really think that people have started equals anxiety with stress. People say they have anxiety, but sometimes it’s really just stress. Idk, I have a lot of intense feelings about the whole matter.

    A while ago I was talking about it with my mom and I said something like, “anxiety is kinda like pain. What’s a panic attack for me could be only mild anxiety to someone else, and visa versa. Anxiety, like pain, is individual to the person. So that’s why I try not to compare my anxiety with other people because we’ll never experience anxiety exactly the same way.

    Whew, sorry, I have a lot of thoughts so that’s a huge, obnoxious ramble. Hopefully as least some of it made sense. <3

    1. It's a tough line to balance on! Everyone has struggles and hard times and it's hard not wanting to invalidate someone but their actions are hurting / invalidating you at the same time. If everyone has social anxiety, then no one really does.

      That's so true! Anxiety is a synonym for stress, but just because you feel anxiety doesn't mean one /has/ anxiety.

      Such a good point. <33

      Thank you for your comment, there's no need to be sorry for saying something so important!

  10. Wow. This post really hit me because I have been saying for probably a couple of years now that I have OCD when I actually have no idea if I do or not, I just like things organized and straight and numbers to be even, etc. Reading this I suppose I should go ask my doctor, lol... but, anyways, I totally get why claiming you have something you don't would be rude to those that do have it. Great post! Really made me think.

    1. OCD is fairly common, the symptoms are excessive thoughts and obsessions that lead to repetitive behaviors / compulsions. There are more than 200,000 US cases per year, so if you think you have it, and if it's negatively affecting your life like it is for the other people with it, you should ask your doctor. You could just be a perfectionist, but there is a good chance that you have OCD.

      Glad this made you think, friend!

  11. What a wonderful post :)
    I completely agree that self-diagnoses is dangerous and I don't like all the "self-diagnosis is valid" things going around the internet at the moment. I mean, diagnosing yourself with depression doesn't mean that you don't have depression, but if you have depression, you need help. I also understand that for some people, medications and doctors are really expensive, but there's still a lot you can do to get help (at least in Australia).
    For me at least, Google has been really helpful in focussing me on something. Being able to look up symptoms at least gives you something to go to a doctor with. Its a starting point, but it shouldn't be the end of the road.
    Recently I've been feeling a lot of anxiety, as well as a bunch of physical symptoms, so I went to a doctor. He diagnosed me with chronic stress/burnout and made some suggestions for lifestyle changes. To be honest, if I'd been left up to my own devices, I probably would have slapped an anxiety label on myself and done nothing. This way, I can get help for my actual issues, rather than just laughing it off as "oh, its my anxiety" and having my stress grow worse and worse, to the point where it could turn into a more serious mental illness.
    Thanks for being brave enough to speak up on a pretty controversial issue!

    1. Thank you, Chelsea.

      I dislike it as well, honestly, it really needs to stop. There's so much more than just going to a doctor in order to get help, and I might do a post on that later.
      I love your point about googling symptoms not being the end of the road, so true!
      I'm glad you're on the road to recovery, you made the right choice and I hope your life and mental state improves. <3

  12. After reading this, I'm reminded that I've kind of slipped into self-diagnosis. It wasn't what I meant to do when I started researching anxiety, but I think it's what's happened all the same. I used to step more carefully around phrases like "my anxiety" because although I think it's likely, I really don't know.
    I don't remember where I was going with that. It's just a comment I guess.

    1. Researching is a smart thing to do, especially if you want to take it to your doctor, but if it's harming you, there are ways to improve your life. <3


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