Patients who self-diagnose can both hinder and help themselves.
For example, patients can help themselves when they acknowledge they have a problem and decide to see a psychologist. Patients who educate themselves on a disorder they might have can also help themselves to some extent, as long as they don’t also become narrow-minded.
A limited viewpoint and inability or unwillingness to collaborate with a psychologist or any other mental health professional or doctor are the worst scenarios when it comes to self-diagnosis.
Every psychologist will probably deal with at least one case of self-diagnosis, though the level can differ.
Larry Kubiak, a psychologist at Tallahassee Memorial Behavioral Health Center, said there has been a change in self-diagnosis over the years with an increase in resources like the Internet and more books. Patients who self-diagnosis are actually a common occurrence now.
“It used to be that you’d go to the doctor and the doctor was the all-powerful, all-knowing individual, and there wasn’t a lot of access to the common man in terms of diagnoses,” Kubiak said.
Using the Internet and books, patients can research their symptoms and even take pre-tests.
“On the one hand, it’s good that patients are more educated about what’s going on or taking more of a collaborative role in that process,” Kubiak said.
He said the major problem is when patients look at a few symptoms using unreliable resources and tests that aren’t generally credible and go to a physician or psychologist saying they have a certain problem and ask for medication when they don’t actually have that problem.
“Those symptoms could be common to a lot of other disorders as well,” Kubiak said. “In the mental health field, there are some symptoms that can cut across a lot of different potential diagnoses.”
Therefore, patients need to realize that a more thorough evaluation is necessary, including gathering history from the patient.
“Sometimes a person has something else going on, or there may be some comorbidity,” Kubiak said.