These two words hold so much meaning and can inflict an array of various emotions in different people. In today’s teenage generation, these two words ring loud and clear, like a series of bells that never seem to shut off. Mental illnesses, such as depression, OCD, anxiety, anorexia, bipolar disorder, and so many more have had a dramatic spike in numbers of diagnoses in the last ten years, according to the Journal of Public Health. Unfortunately, more than half of these cases are teenagers. In school, teachers and instructors teach you about anorexia, bullying and suicides—but not really. They cover the basics but never go farther than that, because they simply don’t see the reality of what happens inside a teen’s mind as he or she lives through a day. Because teachers inform us about them, we must surely have an idea of what they are, right? Let’s check with a little quiz. If you are sad, you are depressed. If you don’t eat, you are anorexic. If you obsess over having your room clean, you have OCD. If you stress out a lot you have anxiety. Those are all accurate, right? Wrong. It’s simple assumptions like these that have started a new craze: self-diagnosis.
People, especially teens, have begun to make themselves susceptible to mental illnesses simply because of what they have heard or assume. They exaggerate their emotions into something that is much bigger than they think, twisting them and wringing them out like a wet cloth. Most teenagers don’t understand, however, that mental illnesses are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, which you are born with; it is inevitable. Life is stressful and hard, no doubt. You may be sad, lonely, or scared, but that doesn’t mean you have a disease in your brain you can’t control. Those who struggle with these illnesses undergo serious problems, and none are easy. The illnesses consume them, feed off their emotions like a parasite, and stop them from living normal, happy lives. Why would you want this to be your life? Why would you label yourself like that, purposely?
One pattern I have noticed is that recently, teens self-diagnose themselves in order to make them look “special,” or “unique.” Depression especially has been glorified, and teens need to realize that these types of illnesses are in no way, shape, or form “cool” or make you “interesting.” Having a mental illness is not glamorous, but life-ruining and unfair. “Self-diagnosing or classifying certain traits as disorders degrades the individuals who are truly affected. There are hundreds of thousands of people that actually have those illnesses, and then there are the kids claiming to have them just for attention. It’s seriously unfair and a shame,” says anonymous. People self-diagnose because they have a range of unexplained symptoms, and are scared and confused by what they could mean. If you are in a situation where you can’t get treatment, obsessing over the fact you think you have a certain diagnosis, telling everyone you know about your “disorder,” and over analyzing every possible symptom does you more harm than good. One thing people don’t seem to understand is that you don’t need a mental illness to make your problems more valid.
Others, however, think diagnosing yourself with an illness is helpful and can get you started in a good direction. Aly, a high school student in North Carolina, blogged that “I believe self-diagnosis can be a healthy starting point. If a teen thinks something is seriously wrong with him or her, self-diagnosing can be the easiest way to answers.” Once you have this idea, however, it is important to follow up with medical treatment. Another teen also feels strongly against the hatred of self-diagnosis. “Let’s put it this way,” she says, “if you were cutting yourself and having suicidal thoughts, would you just sit there and pretend like nothing’s wrong until you’ve killed yourself because you didn’t believe you might have had depression? You have to self-diagnose at some point to even think about going into some form of formal diagnosis.”
While this is true, there are still those who use it for attention. You don’t want to give people the wrong idea about you if you’re perfectly healthy. If you are seriously and undoubtedly struggling with anxiety, moderate to severe depression, anorexia, or any other disorder, please see a doctor. It does no good to try and live with them when it could be so much better. To those who think it’s a joke or “cool,” it is very offensive to all who are fighting not to have those labels while you are fighting so hard to have them.
(cover photo courtesy journal-online.co.uk)