Why more young Australians are self-diagnosing common health issues on TikTok

When popular Australian influencer Ella Watkins first joined TikTok, her feed quickly became inundated with videos about autism.

But while that content resonated with her, it took the 27-year-old a while to put two and two together.

“I would look at all these videos and be like, ‘Oh, that’s me!'” she said.

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“But as soon as they said they were symptoms of ADHD or autism, I’d swipe away and be like, ‘Oh no, that’s not me.'”

Ella says it wasn’t until a very close friend texted that she’d been diagnosed with autism that she started watching the TikTok videos — and realized she might be on the spectrum, too. It prompted a doctor’s visit and a medical diagnosis.

Ella isn’t the only one making this kind of discovery through the use of social media.

In a sort of self-diagnosis trend, many young Aussies are being alerted to the symptoms of various health conditions while scrolling through TikTok feeds.

While Australians have often referred to “Dr. Google” to find out if their symptoms are a cause for concern, TikTok’s algorithms often target teens and young users with videos about a range of common health issues, both physical and mental.

Ella has used her platform to raise awareness of autism. Recognition: tick tock

While in some cases it can lead to an awareness of symptoms and a diagnosis that might otherwise have been missed, experts say it’s not all positive — many teens rush to their doctors for perceived symptoms they don’t actually have.

A surprising diagnosis

For Ella, she says she’s often been very overwhelmed in some social situations in the past, but thought it was just a personality trait.

“I’ve always told people that if they knew me when I was younger they would have assumed I was autistic because I was very unique and very quirky, but it never occurred to me that I actually had it ‘ she told 7NEWS. com.au.

“When I first started at TikTok, I had quite a bit of ADHD and autism content on my page all the time… but it never really occurred to me that it could be me.”

After her friend – who had always been so like her – told her she had been diagnosed with autism, Ella realized she might have it too. Ella spoke to her parents and later received a medical diagnosis for autism.

Since then she has become an influencer raising awareness of autism.

For some people on the spectrum, the rise of online content about autism has changed their lives.

James Macarthur-King, who was recently diagnosed with ADHD, says he uses tips from online videos almost every day.

James said he had behavior problems as a child, but it wasn’t until later in life that he was diagnosed.

Now other family members have also been diagnosed with the condition and they are also using online video guides like How To ADHD YouTube channel and various TikTok accounts that recommend strategies to better manage the condition.

“We’re a multi-generational, neurodiverse family and I take it you don’t really hear about it,” he told 7NEWS.com.au.

“Growing up, I just felt like the naughty kid or the difficult kid.

James says he also shares the video guides with colleagues to give them an idea and understanding of what he’s going through. Recognition: 7NEWS
Recently diagnosed with ADHD, James Macarthur-King says he uses tips from online videos almost every day. Recognition: 7NEWS

“My mom ran around trying to figure out why I was having behavior problems.”

James says he’s now sharing the video guides with colleagues too, to give them an understanding of what he’s going through.

“It helps them support me and helps me maximize my work,” he said.

Experts intervene

There is evidence that TikTok and other social media platforms are leading to growing awareness of autism and, with it, more people being diagnosed.

ADHD drug prescriptions have nearly doubled over the past eight years, from 529,102 prescriptions in 2013 to 926,628 in 2021.

The psychiatrist Dr. However, Tanveer Ahmed told 7NEWS that patients should explore other options before committing to prescription drugs.

“Being really distractible is almost normal these days and we have to work harder than just getting a tablet to maintain attention,” he said.

“We have to be careful not to medicalize ordinary life problems.”

There is evidence that TikTok and the growing awareness of autism is leading to more people being diagnosed. Recognition: 7NEWS

dr Ginni Mansberg told 7NEWS.com.au she’s seen patients being helped through social media videos to make a diagnosis – and learned a lot about their condition.

But she said a correct medical diagnosis is just as important as expert medical advice, and warned people not to believe everything they see online.

“These influencers … they have lived experience, but not necessarily a scientific or medical background,” she said.

“I’ve had patients who have spent thousands on supplements and vitamins recommended to them online that will never work.”

But she also said that in many cases, more content and awareness via social media is helpful.

Ella believes that any awareness of these issues is a positive thing. Recognition: Instagram

“I spend 10 minutes with a patient, but (they) might be watching hours of videos on a particular topic,” she said.

“And they’ll write things down and quite often they’re right and they’re on to something.

“So it’s important not to dismiss it entirely, but I would draw a line before people spend big bucks on cures and miracle cures that people recommend online – don’t waste your hard-earned cash running it from someone you trust.” .

“Also look at these comments on the videos to see if anyone is backing up the information.”

“All consciousness is positive”

Ella says that since the diagnosis she has been able to thrive and understand much more of herself than she ever thought possible.

“I now realize that while I’m still working on it and figuring things out, there’s so much value in sharing my personal journey,” she said.

Ella recommends anyone who sees themselves in the properties described in such videos to speak to a professional.

Ella says her diagnosis has only brought good things. Recognition: Instagram

“If you see these types of videos and you really like it, it might be worth diagnosing,” she said.

“I think overall the percentage of people who misdiagnose themselves is pretty low, so the risk is rather low.

“Because people who may never have realized they have these traits can recognize this and finally get some clarity, and getting a diagnosis is really going to help them thrive, I just think that’s so beneficial.”

James feels the same way. He says all awareness is positive, “although there’s a risk of people googling stuff and winding themselves up.”

“Because at the end of the day, it’s challenging when I see other people who might not have been diagnosed and who aren’t necessarily aware of their own things, and that’s actually the really sad part,” he said.

“Because they’re not getting the help they need.”

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https://7news.com.au/technology/social-media/why-more-young-australians-are-self-diagnosing-common-health-conditions-on-tiktok–c-8080523 Why more young Australians are self-diagnosing common health issues on TikTok

James Brien

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