Why It's Dangerous To Be Self Diagnosing Mental Health

Updated October 3, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

With the overwhelming amount of information regarding illnesses on the internet today at just the touch of our fingertips, we often turn to the web as our immediate source of information for just about everything. According to a Pew Research Center study, 1 in 3 Americans has searched their symptoms online to try to find a diagnosis for a medical condition. While the internet can be an incredibly helpful tool, it can also lead to unnecessary worry surrounding one's health, and there is a lot of misinformation online.

Internet search results regarding health tend to show the worst-case scenario leading you down a rabbit hole of stress and anxiety thinking you have a medical emergency that you may not have. Many physical health and mental health conditions have overlapping common symptoms, leading to misdiagnosis when we choose to look up the symptoms online ourselves. It’s best to leave the mental health diagnosis up to a professional and talking to an online therapist can help you get this support. After all, they are the experts.

Can You Determine Mental Health Disorders Off The Internet?

While there are many credible health resources available online, and it’s important to be aware of potential conditions you may have, mental illness can be incredibly complex, and difficult to accurately find a diagnosis on your own. There are currently more than 200 recognized forms of mental illness, and many have overlapping symptoms with both physical and mental illnesses. You may have symptoms that could be apparent in several different mental health disorders, or may even experience denial around select symptoms, resulting in a misdiagnosis.

If you do decide to look up your symptoms on the internet and feel as though you may have discovered a potential irregularity, share those findings with a licensed professional to confirm your discovery. They can give you a correct diagnosis.

Why A Misdiagnosis Is Harmful

Self-diagnosing can be incredibly harmful and dangerous as one may potentially overlook other symptoms a professional would possibly find, prolonging the correct treatment for their medical issues. You may misdiagnose yourself and never receive the correct treatment, which in turn may worsen the current symptoms. Self-diagnosing can keep you from seeking out professional help, which is ultimately the best way to receive the correct treatment to heal from a mental health condition. If this leads to self-treatment, you could potentially cause harm by taking the wrong medications and treatment or even worsen the body's current condition.

Because so many mental health illnesses have similar symptoms, you may cause unnecessary worry or stress thinking you may have a medical disease that you don’t. This can lead to health anxiety, or cyberchondria, which is excessive worry and anxiety over one's health created by excessive online searches of symptoms and illnesses. Cyberchondria can put a person's mental health in an even more fragile state, leading them to feel incredibly anxious, fueling a cycle of compulsively googling symptoms, thinking they have illnesses they may not even have due to the information provided on the internet.

If you’re finding it difficult to stop constantly looking up symptoms online in a symptom checker, don’t feel ashamed. This form of health anxiety is very common. A licensed therapist can provide tools and guidance to help you overcome any mental health concerns you may have, including health anxiety. While getting a professional opinion may seem scary, it may provide some relief, as it reduces the worries consuming your thoughts over illnesses you may not have.

Why Get a Prognosis From a Professional

An accurate prognosis is the first step toward healing and recovery. To get proper treatment for a mental health condition, it’s important to get an opinion from a licensed therapist or mental health professional. With so many physical and mental illnesses sharing similar symptoms, a professional is the best way to guarantee an accurate prognosis.

Once your healthcare professional gives a prognosis, they can come up with a treatment plan that can effectively treat your mental health condition and put you on a path to recovery. That treatment plan may include a range of therapies, medications, or support groups.

Using the Internet For Good

The internet can be an incredibly useful tool if used correctly, but it’s important to get an official diagnosis first. After receiving a mental health diagnosis from a licensed professional, you can self-educate on your condition by looking for information from credible sources like MedlinePlus, which is free to use and run by the National Library of Medicine. Credible sources can provide accurate information regarding your disorder that may be able to help you understand the condition and find ways to heal.

You can also use the internet to find support groups with other teens that are also living with the same mental health condition. Here one can find support and guidance from others who may be sharing similar experiences. But remember, get a diagnosis from a professional before doing any of this. These days, virtual mental health care has become incredibly popular, and you can even seek a prognosis and treatment on a mobile device through a mental health platform like BetterHelp (18+) or TeenCounseling (13-19).


If it feels like you may be living with a mental health condition, it’s important to avoid self-diagnosing through internet searches and seek support from a mental health care professional instead. BetterHelp and TeenCounseling are online mental health platforms that can match you with a licensed professional that can give you a proper diagnosis and the appropriate treatment needed to heal, right from your device in the comfort of your own home. Reach out to someone today and begin the journey of improving your mental health and overall well-being.

Therapist Reviews

Date of review: Jan 15, 2021

The review was written by Teen Counseling user D.U. after counseling with Amber Hulgan for 2 weeks

“Just in the short time I have been speaking with her, she has given me multiple tools to make it through my issues. She was confident, calm, and receptive of my thoughts, feelings and actions. I would highly recommend her due to the fact that she doesn't treat me like a patient. I'm treated as a friend and I can trust her with my inner thoughts. 10 out of 10”

Date of review: May 27, 2021

The review was written by Teen Counseling user M.E. after counseling with Courtney Maat for 1 month

“Courtney Maat has been a wonderful resource for my 14 year old daughter, who has been dealing with anxiety and depression. After just a month of working together, I can see progress, and my daughter really looks forward to their weekly sessions. Could not recommend more highly!”

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