We’re all guilty of this. With the internet, it’s even easier to diagnose yourself. Everybody has taken the personality disorders test, probably multiple times. (How many times have you scored the exact same? I don’t keep track, so I don’t know)
Wake up call. Those aren’t diagnostic tests. The same way as an online IQ test can’t tell you you have an IQ of 180: only a few people in the world ever have scored that high in real life, they don’t come around often, based on the Stanford-Binet test. A psychological test has to be carried out by a psychologist or psychiatrist in person (with the new teleconferencing stuff, maybe, I’m not sure) and can take a few weeks or months. I was assessed over 6 months after multiple hospitalizations and treatments. An IQ test is similar, it cannot be biased, and the person has to be assessed by the tester for their reatctions. A lot comes into play.
Basically, an online IQ test is just a test with different scoring. Instead of 0-100% it assigns a number. An online psychological test is the same thing, but they have disclaimers: not a diagnostic tool. (Don’t ever pay for either one!)
I can say I hit a lot of DSM criteria, but it’s easy to say that about myself. Other people can say I hit different criteria. To get 3 psychologists and 5 psychiatrists to agree on my diagnoses was kind of amusing, but they did agree. (For the record, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1, rapid cycling with psychosis, schizotypal personality disorder, later on ADHD inattentive type and at that time, EDNOS, which is currently in remission). I did have to do that damn 500 question test. Apparently I exaggerated (that was what everyone who took the test got accused of: they exaggerated!) so the results weren’t clear. The psychologist had to use her head instead of the computer. Poor thing. Okay, enough about me.
Insight is good. Being a know-it-all and changing your treatment plan, double doctoring, doctor shopping and more are not good. In socialized health countries (pretty much everywhere but the US) most of that is harder to do. I work with my psychiatrist with medications, that is, if I really hate his medication decision, I’ll let him know, he’ll reconsider. When I was discharged from inpatient care, it was a mutual decision. If I’ve heard of a new medication, I’ll ask about it, and he’ll fill me in, about how he thinks it would work me me, and then it usually ends in, “and your insurance doesn’t cover it yet”. (It generally takes a year from the med coming out for my insurance to cover it!)
I have never told a doctor, “I think I have..”, partly because I think it’s rude and I’m shy, and partly because I’m not a doctor. Well, except for when I broke my jaw and ribs. “I think I have a broken jaw” fit. If you recognize symptoms earlier because you have heard of them and are able to seek help earlier, that’s even better.
Doctors are often guilty of self diagnosis, especially during medical school. They think they have every disease in the book. Medical studentitis is the name it’s given, as a joke.
“When you self-diagnose, you are essentially assuming that you know the subtleties that diagnosis constitutes.”
Not all mood swings mean bipolar disorder(1) for example. Self diagnosis can get in the way of proper diagnosis. Everybody has mood swings, but certain criteria has to be met. Bipolar disorder is actually not that common, despite hearing about it all the time. A GP should be seen before a psychiatrist so physical illness can be ruled out first. Sometimes physical illness feins psychiatric illness.
Even if you do not want conventional treatment for depression, you may want conventional treatment for a brain tumor.
Self diagnosis is underminig the doctor, too, not good for the relationship, and the doctor could just end it. The diagnosis isn’t what is being treated. That is used for insurance information, symptoms are being treated.
Here are a few problems with self diagnosis:
- – You can be missing something you can’t see, for example, focusing too much on one thing and forgetting the rest.
- – Thinking too much is wrong, or thinking not enough is wrong.
- – It can interfere with the doctor/patient relationship and agitate the doctor (they do get agitated)
- – It can get in the way of proper treatment
- – It can be hard to accept a correct diagnosis, and you could be disappointed that you’re wrong if the doctor disagrees.
Let your doctor do the work, that’s his or her job.
Even a doctor cannot diagnose or treat him or herself. For a lack of a better phrase, it’s a conflict of interest!
“Be honest and upfront with your doctor and make sure to let him know all of your symptoms, even if you do not feel that they are important. Also disclose any and all medications you are currently taking as well as supplements to make sure that your doctor has all the information necessary to treat your illness.”(2)