Katherine Schmidt

Katherine Schmidt, RP #8442 is a Registered Psychotherapist at MyLife Counselling in Guelph. She works with individuals 18yrs and up through anxiety, depression, relationship issues, and grief. Learn more about Katherine here.

Finding a Diagnosis Through Social Media: A Basic Guide

Social media has been a wonderful way for so many people to access information, feel validated and connect with others. An increased number of people are also talking about their own mental health through social media as well: sharing both their struggles and their coping mechanisms. It has been wonderful to see people talking so openly about their mental health and what they find helpful in the face of difficulties. I have also been noticing an increased number of people resonating with descriptions of certain mental health issues and diagnoses and wondering if they themselves have said diagnosis. I have personally and professionally encountered people who have received their diagnoses because of information they have accessed through social media. You might be wondering, if this happens to me, what do I do next? What do I do with this information and the connection I have made? Hopefully, this basic guide will help give a bit of guidance about what to do next, as well as something to consider.

1) What is the severity of the issue/diagnosis?

If the diagnosis you are resonating with is something that is severe or dangerous if not treated, contact your doctor or local healthcare facility immediately. Most of the time, we are talking about issues that are not life-threatening, but if this is the case, please seek treatment immediately.

2) Is having an official diagnosis important to you? What is important about having a diagnosis?

This is the second question I ask clients. For some people, having a diagnosis is incredibly important for varied reasons. It could be that it helps people access treatment, medication, certain accommodations, and insurance coverage. For a number of people, having a diagnosis can also help people understand themselves better, give information to healthcare providers, and help provide context to their struggles. Sometimes it can also provide validation for their experience.

Alternatively, sometimes people do not find a diagnosis helpful because they do not want to have a label on their experience, do not want any discrimination from their insurance/workplace/health care provider, or do not feel having an official diagnosis is necessary for their understanding of themselves.

3) If a diagnosis is important to you, there are a couple people you can talk to this about:

Your Family Doctor:

  • They might be able to diagnose this issue themselves depending on their
    experience, comfortability, or presenting issues.
  • If not, they might suggest/you can ask them for a referral to a psychiatrist who will be able to diagnose whatever is going on.
  • You can only connect with a psychiatrist through a referral from a doctor as they are a medical doctor trained specifically in diagnosis and treatment (including
    prescribing medication), and under OHIP.
  • However, certain issues might only be able to be diagnosed by people who are specifically trained in this area (ex. ADHD).

A Therapist/Social Worker:

  • Your Psychotherapist or Social Worker, while they cannot diagnose any mental health issues, can help support you through the process of connecting with your doctor, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist.
  • They can also help you work on skills to help manage symptoms and impacts of whatever is going on for you.

A Psychologist:

  • Psychologists can assess and diagnose different mental health issues however each psychologist may have specific training in specific areas (ex. ADHD).
  • You do not need a referral to see a psychologist, however, OHIP does not cover visits to a psychologist, insurance providers cover visits through your work medical plan.

4) If a diagnosis is NOT important to you, here are things you can do:

  • You can discuss the impacts of the symptoms that resonate with your therapist or other health care provider. They will be able to suggest techniques or skills to help manage these symptoms.
  • Therapists do not need an official diagnosis to treat the issue. For example, if you feel you have anxiety, but do not feel you need a diagnosis, a therapist can still help you work on your anxiety.
  • If social media has suggested certain coping strategies for helping with symptoms you resonate with (ex. Rearranging your fridge in a certain way to prevent spoilage), go ahead and try these things out! Sometimes these skills can be helpful for managing symptoms even if you do not have the diagnosis about which they are talking.

5) Considerations to Keep in Mind:

  • Social media information is not fact-checked by anyone. This means that people can post different things which are simply not true or accurate.
  • There is symptomatic overlap between various issues and diagnoses. So, while you might be resonating with the symptoms of one issue, it might end up being something else entirely. For example, there can be an overlap between anxiety and ADHD, depending on how it presents and the individual.
  • A diagnosis may be different from the issues you thought you had, and this might be disappointing and upsetting. This does not mean that what you are experiencing is invalid, or that relief and help is not out there! Therapists are great for not only helping you validate and process these feelings, but also to help you build skills to help with whatever is going on for you.
Katherine Schmidt

Katherine Schmidt, RP #8442 is a Registered Psychotherapist at MyLife Counselling in Guelph. She works with individuals 18yrs and up through anxiety, depression, relationship issues, and grief. Learn more about Katherine here.

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