Tik Tok has exploded with full force onto our screens and while many of us may not be directly part of the community, much of social media is now awash with shared and re-shared videos, which cover a mind boggling array of subjects. Whether you are looking for a hundred ways to cook a potato, videos on people power washing filthy swimming pools or looking for financial advice, it is incredible to see the scope of information and entertainment that a random stranger on the internet will post up for all to enjoy.
An unexpected by-product of the rise of Tik Tok is a greater amount of information being shared about mental health issues and neurodiversity. Circulating in their droves are cheery checklists of common traits and symptoms, jovial anecdotes and highly relatable scenarios that most of us can feel a kinship with. As a result of this there has been a strong upswing in ADHD, Autism, DID and GAD assessment and diagnosis, in part down to the heightened awareness thanks to this sharing platform. But is searching for a diagnosis always useful?
In these situations it is worth considering whether having a diagnosis- either formally or self attributed will be a positive force. Many people who are neurodiverse find it a huge relief to be able to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes them different from others and gives them a starting point to work from, giving them opportunity to adjust expectations and ask for tailored help when it’s needed. Finding that there is a label, and therefore a community that you could be part of, who understands your life struggles can be really helpful and knowing you are not alone can make a huge difference. Those in a study environment, whatever their age, may also benefit from a formal diagnosis as it may mean that you are eligible for extra time in exams, extra help from educational settings and, if it feels necessary medication which can help you focus when you really need to.
The downside however of seeking a diagnosis due to information on social media is of course that these symptom checklists also run the risk of pathologising behaviour which is in no way a problem in day to day life. There is also the risk that the impact of other neurological differences, such as trauma, PTSD or ASD can be missed as the symptoms that are being experienced are attributed to ADHD or similar instead. As with a lot of neurodivergence and mental health issues, there is always the possibility of overlapping symptoms which need to be carefully looked at if they are proving to make living a fulfilling life difficult. In this instance the old maxim of ‘a little knowledge can be dangerous’ may well apply here.
The main problem with these Tik Tok videos is that they mimic what is often referred colloquially to as ‘the horoscope effect’- the act of reading a horoscope and feeling as though it describes your life perfectly, when of course it is entirely generic. While many young people are becoming quite rightly more informed about neurological differences, a lot of us are wondering if we maybe belong in these labelled categories too when perhaps we shouldnt.
The algorithms-the set of instructions which decide what videos get suggested to you, based on previous views- will often target people already following accounts which speak about neurodiversity, mental health and the LGBTQ+ community with content of a similar ilk. This means that many young people- the general demographic of these types of social media outlets- who already feel on the fringes of society may find comfort in finding experiences that they can relate to, and equally know that their experiences are shared by others. The result of this may end up being that people are overly identifying with these symptom lists and therefore diagnosing themselves without needing to.
It goes without saying that if you are feeling as though you are really struggling with life and your symptoms do seem to strongly tie in with what you are reading or watching then the best course of action is to get in touch with your GP who will refer you for a specialised assessment. It is true that a lot of adults today have had to navigate their way through life feeling different and only now realise that there is a name for it. Being able to avoid this struggle is always going to be a benefit.
At the same time, if you feel as though you would like to explore the symptoms you are having, or feel as though you would benefit from working through difficulties that are arising from these, then talk therapy is a perfect space to start. There is no need to have a formal diagnosis in order to access private therapy and it can be a great tool to help you find coping strategies to work with the differences you are experiencing.
Why not in touch with The Henry Centre to find out more.