Dangers of Psychiatric Self-Diagnosis

Proper psychiatric diagnosis requires expert clinical knowledge, extensive training and a foundation from years of experience working in the field. In addition, a comprehensive understanding of psychological disorders and how they are related to one another can make a critical difference in choosing which treatment plan will be the most effective and successful.

Self-Diagnosis Delays and Prevents Correct Treatment

Psychology Today reports that with the ease of being able to “Google” anything today, hundreds of thousands of people self-diagnose reaching their own conclusions about what may or may not be “wrong.” Unfortunately self-diagnosis is often incorrect, delaying and often preventing proper treatment. For example, almost 70% of people who report anxiety as their main concern also have depression – with self-diagnosis, a second or even third disorder which needs to be treated can be completely overlooked.

Medical Problems Missed in Psychiatric Self-Diagnosis

While there is always a danger with the process of self-diagnosis of a psychological syndrome, one of the greatest dangers is that a serious medical disease may be missed. It is not uncommon for a medical problem to masquerade as a psychiatric syndrome, such as those that present with changes to their personality, depression, or psychotic behaviors – treating symptoms with over the counter medications from self-diagnosis would not be the proper treatment when the correct diagnosis may be a serious neurological, cardiac, or endocrine problem.

Common Dangers of Psychiatric Self-Diagnosis

When self-diagnosis is wrong then proper care and treatment can be delayed or the wrong treatment can be instituted which can negatively affect any hoped for outcomes. Receiving a proper diagnosis takes a well experienced psychiatrist or mental health professional to not only determine what the problem is, but to sort through what the problem is not. Some common dangers of psychiatric self-diagnosis include:

  • Missing the nuances a proper diagnosis demands – those with mood swings for example may self-diagnose manic-depression or bipolar disorder when they may have a borderline personality disorder with major depression, other complicating factors or different combinations of diagnoses altogether
  • Misdirecting the mental health professional with complaints related to self-diagnosis
  • Providing self-treatment based on an incorrect decision
  • Denial or inability to correctly interpret symptoms and behaviors displayed that disrupt one’s life
  • Many personality disorders are not openly reported as they are a problem to others, not one’s self

Self-Diagnosis versus Clinical Diagnosis

Self-diagnosis can have life-impacting consequences on one’s life. Discussing symptoms and noted behaviors with a clinical specialist is imperative to starting the treatment strategy that fits and is successful. If symptoms or behaviors are causing distress in your home, work or social situations, seek out a professional. There’s no issue with educating yourself about symptoms; however, leave the diagnosis to an experienced psychiatrist. Please call the office to set up an appointment and make sure you get the right diagnosis.

About Darvin Hege

Dr. Darvin Hege, MD, PC, is based in Atlanta, Georgia, and certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. He is an Emory Hospital residency trained psychiatrist who has been practicing psychiatry for more than 25 years. He maintains over 50 hours of AMA certified education each year to stay informed of advances in psychiatry.

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