Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Social Media

TikTok’s Growing Self-Diagnosis Culture

The risks and consequences of mental health self-diagnosis via social media.

Key points

  • TikTok has become a significant source of health information, fostering a culture of self-diagnosis.
  • TikTok can be a starting point for curiosity, but should not be the final destination.
  • It is crucial to critically assess and cross-verify mental health information from social media.

In recent years, TikTok has expanded beyond its original primary use as an entertainment platform to become a significant source of health information. This shift has given rise to a culture of self-diagnosis culture, in which users seek out insights into mental health and medical conditions from content creators. While the platform has undoubtedly fostered greater awareness and openness around mental health, it also carries the risk of misinformation and oversimplification, necessitating a balanced approach to consumption.

Understanding the Appeal

TikTok’s personalized content delivery system makes it an attractive resource for those exploring health symptoms or conditions. Its accessible format allows users to easily relate to the content, often leading to self-diagnosis without professional input. This trend is fueled by the platform’s anonymity, simplified presentation of complex information, and the formation of communities that offer validation and reduce feelings of isolation. However, the appeal of self-diagnosis must be tempered with awareness of its potential risks.

Being Aware of the Risks

Misinformation and oversimplification are significant concerns. Studies such as those by Wang and colleagues (2019) highlight the spread of health misinformation on social media. They conducted a systematic analysis to examine the characteristics and possible causes of health-related misinformation, revealing a growing number of studies on health misinformation and the impact of social media in its dissemination. The predominant subjects of misinformation included vaccinations, nutrition, cancer, and smoking. TikTok’s format, favoring brief content, often cannot capture the complexity of medical conditions, potentially leading viewers to an incorrect self-diagnosis. The platform’s algorithm may also create echo chambers that reinforce false beliefs, delaying proper treatment or leading to inappropriate self-management strategies. Additionally, this trend can exacerbate health anxiety, with the fear of having various conditions becoming a stressor in itself.

How to Become a Savvy Consumer

Here are some tips for becoming a better consumer of mental health information on TikTok (and other social media platforms) and using it in a positive way.

  1. Use it as a starting point, not a destination. The positive side of TikTok is that it can make people aware. Let it spark your curiosity about mental health topics, but don’t use it as professional advice or a diagnostic tool. Always consult with a health care professional before drawing conclusions about your health based on social media content. They can provide a comprehensive assessment and guide you toward appropriate support and interventions if needed.
  2. Use a critical mindset. Remember that not all content creators are mental health professionals. Look for creators with credible backgrounds in health care or psychology and check their qualifications. Ask questions such as “Is the information based on personal stories or scientific research?” Be wary of videos that offer oversimplified solutions or that promise quick fixes. While personal stories can be interesting and informative, they should not replace evidence-based health care advice.
  3. Cross-verify information. Take the information obtained from TikTok and cross-reference it with reputable health websites, such as those run by government health departments, medical institutions, or recognized health organizations. Also, if you’re questioning if you have a diagnosis or are thinking about making changes based on what you’ve learned on TikTok, consult a health care provider to get personalized, professional advice.
  4. Prioritize your mental health. Too much time on social media, especially consuming health-related content, can lead to anxiety. Set limits on your social media use to protect your mental well-being. Be mindful of how the content makes you feel. If certain topics trigger anxiety or discomfort, it’s OK to unfollow or mute those creators.
  5. Be aware of confirmation bias. Remember, it is easy to favor information that confirms our existing beliefs. Actively seek out content that challenges your views to ensure a balanced understanding of mental health topics. Follow a variety of content creators from different professional backgrounds to expose yourself to a broad spectrum of insights and opinions.
  6. Engage in positive communities. Many TikTok and other social media communities offer support and understanding. Engage in these communities positively, offering encouragement and seeking advice respectfully. But keep in mind that while it’s tempting to find answers online, be cautious of communities that promote self-diagnosis or self-treatment without professional guidance. If you think you need help, seek out and talk to a mental health professional or your primary care physician.
Matt Moloney/StockSnap
Matt Moloney/StockSnap


The self-diagnosis culture on TikTok highlights the double-edged sword of social media’s role in mental health awareness. While it opens the door for discussion and discovery, it also necessitates a cautious approach to prevent misinformation and potential harm. By developing a critical mindset, cross-verifying information, and engaging positively, you can make the most of these platforms without falling into the pitfalls of self-diagnosis culture. Remember, your health is paramount, and collaboration with a health care professional is irreplaceable.


Wang, Y., McKee, M., Torbica, A., & Stuckler (2019). Systematic literature review on the spread of health-related misinformation on social media. Social Science & Medicine, 240, 112552.

Ellen McVay. Social media and self diagnosis. August 31, 2023. Johns Hopkins Medicine.

More from Ray W. Christner, Psy.D., NCSP, ABPP
More from Psychology Today