Mental Illness: Do Not Diagnose Yourself

January 3, 2013 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

When you live with a chronic mental illness you may experience periods of relapse. Side-note: Not everyone who lives with a mental illness relapses but for those of us who do, the desire to diagnose ourselves and, in connection, attempt to treat our symptoms is tempting.

And it is exceptionally dangerous.

This blog is part1 of a two part series. Early next week, I will be writing and focusing on the dangers of treating your mental health symptoms. It's important to first discuss self-diagnosis.

The Dangers of Diagnosing Yourself

I'm writing a blog on this topic because my recent relapse into a state of depression made me desperate to find a way to feel better. Even a little bit! My psychiatrist was on holiday (I swear she takes holidays whenever I relapse!) and although she gave me the contact information for a psychiatrist working while she was away, I was not inclined to make an appointment. I decided, amidst the blackness that had come to define my life, that I could do it on my own. After all, I reasoned, I've been living with bipolar disorder since I was twelve.

I knew I was depressed--that much I could diagnose myself--but I ignored the fact that it probably wasn't the best idea to decide exactly what was going on. Yes, the depression was obvious--the inability to sleep or eat normally etc.--but, in hindsight, it was not just a state of depression. It was a mixed state and mixed states are quite a lot different. They are scary. As usual, self-righteous as I can be, I was certain it was just depression. Reality check: I was confused and within this confusion, it's ironic, I was certain I could diagnose myself--with the help of Google.

The Dangers of Diagnosing Yourself Using Online Information

If you search 'depression' online, you come up with lists of symptoms from reputable sources like HealthyPlace. I checked them off: lethargy, sleep disturbance, appetite change and on and on.

It's easy, really easy, to diagnose yourself based on what you read online. Don't do this! My psychiatrist has told me numerous times (when I walk into her office with printed pages of my symptoms) to stop looking online.

Now, recovery having s-l-o-w-l-y swept me away, I will heed her advice.

Here's Why You Should Always Check-in With Your Mental Health Care Team...

They may not know what we feel like but they do know the stuff we probably do not: clinical and pharmacological information, medication information...and, well, the degrees that hang on the office walls mean something. They still piss me off, lest I admit.

In the end, attempting to diagnose ourselves--whether based on symptoms of information we found online and in books--is dangerous. When you feel yourself slipping, don't waste any time, get yourself to your doctor as fast as you can. Take it from me: it's worth it.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2013, January 3). Mental Illness: Do Not Diagnose Yourself, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 27 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

October, 9 2013 at 4:52 am

I have attachment disorder I think..I diagnosed myself off of a site I found on google because I found 14/18 symptoms to be accurate. Like, the description of the symptoms and signs hit my personality, habits, and tendencies so hard it was scary. Its like the whole time I thought I was just being stupid or that the things I was doing were normal things to do or feel.. I should probably start talking to a psychologist or something lol.

Claire Casey
January, 11 2013 at 9:30 am

Harder and harder to cope.. BPD, Agoraphobia, PSTD, Bi-Polar, chronic depression. Constant panic. Who can help me? <3

January, 4 2013 at 11:59 am

I actually think BOTH clinicians AND m.h. consumers often give the wrong diagnosis; I know because this has actually happened to me, w/ a pdoc who only knew me 4 (at MOST!) 30 minutes gave her own "diagnosis" which she had the nerve to do AFTER my OWN pdoc called her (who has known me for YEARS!) and gave her the correct one.
The resident (not even a full fledged psych yet at the time) gave a diagnosis of "schizotypal" when in reality I have Asperger's, wh/is NOT even a true mi., it'd developmental, related to autism. While the features may appear similar, how DARE the new girl thought she actually knew MORE than MY OWN doctor? Such arrogance! Further, she said I "was delusional" when the accounts I gave her were later PROVEN CORRECT by MY OWN doctor!
Shouldn't there be a sort of criteria to be met b4 a shrink can arbitrarily label a consumer's account as "delusional" when it's NOT far-fetched? true, there ARE delusional people out there, but NOTHING in my diagnosis has EVER suggested a break w/ reality, and even if it did, there is something called the "Martha Mitchell Effect" when a shrink wrongly concludes a pt.'s account is delusional, when in fact it is not. And it's rather scary when you think about it, because what if someone IS being hurt or abused??? Simply due to a shrink's "medical opinion" when s/he does NOT posseses all the facts and can neither confirm nor deny the account?
I think any and all m.h. professionals out there reading this should TRULY give what I have wrote here some thought, if you wish 2 consider yourself ethical and fair.

January, 3 2013 at 7:36 am

This is a good though, I have somewhat diagnosed my self as bp2 and others have agreed with what information i have told them, but i only have general doc, who helped me on the depression. I know i need to go to a pyshc but i have the problem of i dont have the money to do that so i dont. I plan on talking to my general doc about it when i go back and it is soon. BUt i am like you, i studied it in school and being, in best thought, to stupid to see it all, i was stubborn and thought i knew better and i knew me and i knew what i needed to do, i was wrong.

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