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Dec 12, 2022

Navigating the Social Media Self-Diagnosis Trend

Curt and Katie chat about the TikTok Mental Health and the self-diagnosis trend. We dig into what diagnosis is (and what is actually useful about diagnosis). We also explore the concerns with social media self-diagnosis as well as how we can support our clients with getting accurate assessment and treatment.  

Transcripts for this episode will be available at!

In this podcast episode we talk about self-diagnosis and the impact of social media

We have both heard about TikTok diagnoses in our practices and wanted to talk about how therapists might navigate this new trend.  

What is the TikTok trend of self-diagnosis?

  • Lots of influencers on social media are sharing content
  • Unvetted content creators
  • Some good information mixed in with very vague information that can be confusing

What is diagnosis?

“The way I see diagnosis is that it's a construct… It's labeling folks that seem to fall together with similar symptoms. And the medical model says, that's a real thing. And then we can do treatments or prescribe medication for it... And so, to me, some of the self-diagnosis stuff is almost colluding with this medical model that’s saying, if you have a couple of these things over here, and a couple of those things over here, then you have this label, this label is a real thing. And that blows my mind, because I think a lot of folks in the self-diagnosis realm are trying to kind of push up against the establishment, but they're lending credence to this idea that diagnosis is a real, concrete thing versus a tool to help with treatment planning, and to understanding us better.” – Katie Vernoy, LMFT

  • Rosenhan experiment (experiment showing that malingering patients will probably be misdiagnosed)
  • Constructs of things that typically fall together
  • Effective for treatment planning and getting this treatment covered by insurance
  • Identity versus something to heal

What are concerns with social media self-diagnosis?

“The point of having a professional be able to properly evaluate is looking through that more nuanced clinical eye in order to look at where the threshold is that actually meets diagnostic [criteria] versus actually just having some characteristics in common with [the diagnosis]. Somebody can be nervous, does not mean that they have anxiety… What is pathologizing normal feelings?” – Curt Widhalm, LMFT

  • Focusing in on small elements and then having that frame their full life experience
  • Seeking only confirmatory diagnosis versus allowing for differential diagnosis
  • Clinicians who are not doing full assessments to support clients who have self-diagnosed
  • Clients who do not need treatment taking slots from those who do need assessment and treatment
  • Lack of nuance in the social media content that doesn’t include information on differential diagnosis
  • Inaccurate treatments based on inaccurate self-diagnosis
  • Malingering and factitious disorder risk
  • Pathologizing normal feelings
  • Being inundated with so much information
  • Confirmatory bias

How to support clients who have sought diagnostic information on social media and google?

“What started the whole thing… clinicians under diagnosing, undervaluing client feedback, not asking all the right questions. And so, folks are feeling dissatisfied with what we're doing and heading to the interweb to understand better what it is that's going on.” – Katie Vernoy, LMFT

  • Therapists need to listen to their clients, so they don’t feel the need to go elsewhere for information
  • Identify what is resonating for clients and explore what it means to them
  • Educate clients about differential diagnosis
  • Walk through their research (to listen and to help vet sources)
  • Take your client seriously and support them in getting the help they need


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Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

The Rosenhan experiment


TikTok Mental Illness Diagnosis

Deconstructing TikTok Videos on Mental Health: Cross-sectional, Descriptive Content Analysis

Young People Are Using TikTok to Diagnose Themselves With Serious Mental Health Disorders. What's Behind This Trend?

TikTok and the Dangers of Self-Diagnosing Mental Health Disorders

Why "TikTok Diagnoses" Are on the Rise

Why the nature of TikTok could exacerbate a worrisome social media trend

Young Women Are Self-Diagnosing Personality Disorders, Thanks To TikTok


Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

What's New in the DSM-5-TR: An interview with Dr. Michael B. First

Portrayals of Mental Health and Therapy in the Media: An interview with Danah Davis Williams, LMFT

Should Therapists Correct Their Clients?

It’s Not a Chemical Imbalance: An interview with Dr. Kristen Syme

Is Therapy an Opiate of the Masses?

Speaking Up for Mental Health Awareness: An interview with Metta World Peace


Who we are:

Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making "dad jokes" and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Katie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt's youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:


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Podcast Homepage

Therapy Reimagined Homepage






Consultation services with Curt Widhalm or Katie Vernoy:

The Fifty-Minute Hour

Connect with the Modern Therapist Community:

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapists Group

Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano