The Dangers Of Self Diagnosis

Result: 66/80
Probable diagnosis of PTSD

That’s the result from an online test that I took last night.

It started when a blogger friend wanted some advice on a post she had written. So I gave my thoughts on the situation. She was worried that maybe it was post traumatic stress (which, until this afternoon, I thought was the same thing as PTSD), so I suggested that she search for the DSM criteria on it. She came back to me and it turns out that she didn’t ‘qualify’ for the diagnosis.

By now I was curious too, and decided to also take the test. “Just for fun”. As I was reading the questions and working my way through them, I felt this chill run down my spine. Those questions struck a major chord with what I have been experiencing lately. And the high score I got at the end worried me.

But then I started laughing. I actually laughed out loud at myself. Why? This whole thing reminded me of the time that I was convinced I had ADHD. I had also taken the tests for that, and had most of the symptoms. So I started reading articles and books on the subject. But then a year or two later, I got diagnosed with BPD instead. On the positive side, at least I know pretty much everything there is to know about ADHD, including the medications. That can’t be a bad thing.

It’s so easy for us to assume we have a physical or mental illness by what we read on the internet. Just like a sore throat can have many different causes and signal anything from a cold to cancer. To say “I’m going to die, I have cancer!” because Google or a medical site listed that as one cause, is dangerous. It’s the same regarding mental health. It can cause unnecessary stress and paranoia, and some people even take it a step further and change their entire lives. Thinking we know what’s wrong with us can sometimes cause serious harm, because we think we don’t need to get it checked out. After all, we know what’s wrong, right? The medical website said so, how can it be wrong? No, it’s not necessarily wrong, but there’s lots of factors involved in order to get an accurate diagnosis. So we might miss what’s actually really going on.

I don’t believe these tests should be used by individuals to diagnose themselves, and go about their lives living according to this ‘diagnosis’ that they assume they have. These tests are just a tool to help guide you to seek professional help if needed.

There are a few questions on the PTSD list that overlap with the symptoms of BPD, anxiety and depression. So how can I know whether it’s a result of these diagnoses or whether it’s PTSD? That’s one example of why this isn’t just black and white. It’s not a simple thing. I believe that only a professional will be able to distinguish the difference.

When I was working at the bookstore, a customer came in one day (clearly drunk), and asked whether we had any books on Borderline Personality Disorder. I knew the Psychology section really well, so I told my colleague that I’d help this customer. I showed him the few books we had, and he told me that he’ll take all of them. While I was ringing them up, he proceeded to tell me (very loudly) that his wife is crazy, and that she’s always shouting at him, that he can’t do anything right in her eyes. He said that she has BPD so he was buying the books for her. I asked him whether she was seeing anyone for it, and he told me that she doesn’t need to because he knows she has it and doesn’t want to waste money. That the books were cheaper. At that point I wanted to say something (a few things actually), but I kept my mouth shut and tried to get him out out of there as soon as possible, because he just wouldn’t stop complaining. Everyone around us were staring and shaking their heads. Even the manager was on the verge of throwing him out. I breathed a sigh of relief when he eventually left. But I was pissed off.

And the sad part is that this kind of thing happens all the time. I’m guilty of it myself. Case in point; I’m sure my dad has NPD. But I’ll never know whether he actually does, because he’s always made it clear that he thinks psychology and therapy is a load of bullshit. So it’s not my place to try to label him, or anyone else for that matter.

Another thing. People tend to throw diagnosis around like it’s a new fashion statement. Those people who think it’s ‘cool’ to be able to say “I think I have Bipolar Disorder”, are precisely those who don’t, because if they had to live with it, they’d be wishing they didn’t.

My previous doctor had a note on her door:

“If you come in here having diagnosed yourself using Google, you’ll be charged double.”

I can’t remember the exact wording, but it’s pretty close. Every doctor should have that sign up.

So Google… You’re helpful and all, but I don’t trust you. So I think I’ll stick to my psychologist’s assessments.

Oh, and in case anyone is interested, this is the test I took.

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31 thoughts on “The Dangers Of Self Diagnosis

  1. A few months ago I took an online test to screen for anxiety. The results I got back said that I experience so little stress in life that I should be concerned. I laughed. The next session, my counselor formally diagnosed me with anxiety, and I told her about the test I took. She told me these online tests are made in order to give them certain statistics. Basically, the tests are bad. I think you’re right to leave the test giving to the professionals!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joyce

    Love this post! It’s very important to not self-diagnose. I especially love this part: “Those people who think it’s ‘cool’ to be able to say ‘I think I have Bipolar Disorder’, are precisely those who don’t, because if they had to live with it, they’d be wishing they didn’t.” This is true of any disorder, I’m sure. BPD can be very difficult to live with. I know several people who’ve read the criteria and believe that it applies to them. If they really had it, they’d know it! Therapy helps but why go through dealing with BPD symptoms if you don’t have to? I am not self-diagnosed. I was officially diagnosed by a psychiatrist but am glad to be in recovery now. It took me a full year of very intensive DBT to recover. I still have to try to remember to use the skills every day. Thank goodness for DBT! Sorry for the long comment!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you liked it. BPD is a pain in the a**, no doubt. DBT is hard to practice when I’m in a ‘crises’ state of mind. It’s like I forget everything. So still on that slow road. You don’t have to apologize for the long comment. I appreciated it. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    2. hisbannerovermeislove7

      my diagnosis of BPD was given to me by a psych who didn’t even tell me i had it. i saw it written on my notes years later (long story). interestingly enough when i first looked it up and read the DSM criteria i could see some of it but others things i needed broken down for me to accept they might be relevant to me. accurate diagnosis? i don’t know. some of it definitely applies and i can see i had traits of it definitely, and other mental health professionals who saw me later said it seemed to fit but i believe i had HPD and some NPD traits too. and when i read about Complex PTSD, well it was like looking in a mirror. and i certainly had the abuse background to go with it… i did find DBT very helpful…. as a christian i was wary of the mindfulness aspects but the rest of it helped me enormously… BPD does not define my life anymore. praise God! i do think people self diagnose bipolar and stuff because they misunderstand what it really is (it isn’t flipping moods suddenly- it is sustained up and down moods. over weeks or months) or maybe they believe that what they actually have might not be considered worthy to get treatment? it is true that bipolar has a reputation for being an illness of movie stars and writers and rock musicians etc. BPD on the other hand is so stigmatized that it isn;t a label most would want. i think people self diagnosing BPD might really worry they have it, even if they don’t ….

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      1. hisbannerovermeislove7

        also there are those who may actually have traits of PD but stigma is so awful they prefer to claim Bipolar as the label not BPD or HPD or whatever. i will probably get hated for saying this but as a teenager and 20 year old i wondered if i was bipolar and clung to the label for a bit. i had never heard of BPD or HPD and considered my symptoms were close to a kind of “bipolar” though deep down inside i knew it wasn’t. i even tried to persuade several MH professionals it WAS bipolar. i’m ashamed of that now. i did hear voices etc but i am ashamed that i ended up taking anti psychotics for fake bipolar because they damaged my physical health permanently. i’m now disabled with Tardive Dystonia and need help with my physical care. being diagnosed as BPD was both a slap in the face but then a relief because finally i felt i had a more accurate picture of what was going on, even if i think i’m more HPD with a touch of BPD traits..

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  3. This post gave me pause for thought. I’ve had many diagnoses in my life – some from professionals and some self diagnosed.

    What I’ve learned is that there is a lot of room for error and that I’m not sure we know enough about the brain and mental health to really make these diagnoses off the cuff.

    The only time I’ve had a psychiatrist sit down with me regularly, he diagnosed me after two sessions and then three weeks later was like “I was wrong”.

    I am not a fan of diagnoses in general due to personal experience – but I agree that if anyone is to attempt it, it should be a professional.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi. It’s really a complex thing, and like you say, there’s a lot of room for error. I’m grateful that my therapist took a few more sessions with me before making an official diagnoses, even though she had known since the beginning. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a wonderful post, Rayne! For a while, I was absolutely convinced that I had Lyme Disease… turns out I was just having really bad side effects from a medication and BPD and Depression. A lot of symptoms of a lot of things overlap, and it’s easy to go crazy worrying and self-diagnosing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you liked it. 🙂 Wow! That must have been scary as hell. If we have to go around diagnosing ourselves using all these tests and symptom lists, I think all of us would have 99% of every illness that exists. 😛

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Exactly! To be fair to myself, I did actually have multiple tick bites about a month prior to symptoms really taking a turn for the worse, so that’s why I was so sure and adamant about it. But according to the tests, I don’t have it. Phew!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes I think online tests and self-diagnosis for mental illness are not a good idea at all. There is a debate raging in medical circles as to whether Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and BPD are the same thing. Trauma therapists say they are others say there are differences. I questioned my BPD diagnosis and was told by the psychiatric team that I could have PTSD. When I had EMDR the leading treatment for PTSD a lot of my paranoia and OCD went away. I’m still not sure whether I have both or just PTSD. I wouldn’t trust an online test to tell me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It all seems so damn complicated. I didn’t even really know what C-PTSD was until a few days ago. I’ve seen it used on a couple of blogs, but didn’t go research what it’s actually all about. I really should learn more about these things. I love learning, especially when it comes to mental health. Psychology, just like any other science, is constantly evolving. One day it’s this, the next it’s that. It’s crazy. I’m glad the EMDR helped with your paranoia and OCD. I should do that as well… I’m super paranoid. Although, I’ve read up on EMDR and it seems a little daunting. But if it helps, then that’s all that matters I guess.

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      1. It really is. My PTSD was diagnosed by Paul Meier, M.D., founder of the nationwide chain of Meier New Life Clinics and best selling author or co-author of over 100 books. Instead of paying cash for the darling house I had picked out, I checked myself into his clinic in Richardson, Texas, and used my divorce settlement money to pay for my stay there. I had to pay a very big bill, because I lost my insurance in the divorce. But it was so worth it and I thank God I was able that, because they literally saved my life.

        After a full battery of physical and psychological tests, Dr. Meier himself told me that the only thing “wrong” with me was PTSD. He told me that my PTSD was a normal reaction to my horribly abnormal life of abuse. He said it was no less normal to have PTSD after overwhelming trauma, than it is to bleed if you are stabbed. PTSD, Dr. Meier said, is a psychological injury, NOT an inherent mental illness.

        One of the therapists there told me that the staff had a long and lively discussion over whether to add BPD to my diagnosis. But in the end, the consensus was that I did not have a personality disorder, or any other mental illness, I had post traumatic stress disorder, period.

        I was about to turn 50 when that diagnosis was made. Today I am 63 and my only psych diagnosis is still PTSD. But when I was 14, I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Many doctors have told me since then that was wrong. When I was 40, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 2. Again, that diagnosis is considered by my health care providers to be wrong.

        Confusing? I’ll say!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It just goes to show… Even professionals can get it wrong sometimes. No science is perfect or without flaws, which is why it’s continually evolving. Thank you so much for sharing your journey through this. 🙂 xx

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I believe that professionals very often get it wrong. The mega bucks behind Big Pharma is a huge part of the reason why this is so. Their advertising dollars are influencing the professionals from the beginning of medical school.

            Here are two books that I highly recommend for anyone who has been affected by trauma:
            Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: A Guide and Map for Recovering from Childhood Trauma, by Pete Walker. Mr. Walker is a therapist of over thirty years, and he also has C-PTSD.

            The second book I recommend is
            Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence–From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith L. Herman, MD. Dr. Herman, who coined the term “Complex PTSD”, is a brilliant Harvard psychiatrist. Both Dr. Herman and Pete Walker believe that many people have been misdiagnosed with all kinds of mental illness labels, particularly mood disorders and personality disorders, when in reality they have Complex PTSD.

            Liked by 1 person

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