The Difference Between Self-Diagnosis And Self-Advocacy

The Difference Between Self-Diagnosis And Self-Advocacy

Mental illness already has enough stigmas.
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The internet is a gold mine of easily accessible information and resources about previously “taboo” topics. This open access to new information is undoubtedly beneficial for our society as a whole, but it opens doors for many questions regarding what to do with that information. In regards to mental illness and other cognitive disorders, there is often debate about the validity of self-diagnosis.

In most discussions of self-diagnosis, the term “self-advocacy” makes an appearance. Self-advocacy involves educating yourself on your symptoms and behaviors in regards to your health. It involves meeting with a doctor and advocating for yourself during your healthcare. Self-diagnosis is simply going a step further from research and speculation towards labeling your behavior and experiences.

Frankly, speculating you have a disorder is essentially diagnosing yourself. We all self-diagnose at some point, from simple things like a cold; or more complex issues like realizing you may need therapy. Rarely does one go to a therapist without having a sense that something is wrong, and typically you realize you have the flu before visiting a doctor. Professional diagnosis simply confirms what you already know.

There is a difference between people who self-diagnose as a cop-out for their behavior and those who self-diagnose out of necessity. Within this debate of self-diagnosis verses self-advocacy, we are disregarding those who decide to say they have bipolar disorder in order to abuse their family or that they have anxiety to seem “quirky." Everyone agrees that their “diagnosis” is not valid, and their involvement in all this only further stigmatizes disorders in general. The general public tends to discriminate against illness and disability, and refuse to acknowledge their existence without “proof”; this “proof” coming from a professional diagnosis.

Self-advocacy does not take into account that you may not have a doctor to whom you can advocate. Those who have access to a doctor may experience issues due to their race, gender, social class, and financial standing. Even when seeking a diagnosis, some people are denied based on these setbacks. Doctors, unfortunately, are not perfect people, and some may be prejudiced and put their personal beliefs and biases before the health of their patient.

Children and teenagers may not be able to receive any sort of formal diagnosis due to unsupportive or abusive caregivers. Obvious signs of mental illness may not be taken seriously by parents and teachers due to widespread misconceptions about mental illness and other disorders. For example, boys are often ignored when signs of emotional disorders take place and are instead told to “man up”. Teenage girls may be told that “it’s just hormones” and often seen as “over exaggerating”; only to find out as an adult that they were denied an opportunity to receive help. This biased lack of diagnosis occurs in actual medical care, in instances like an appendix rupture being diagnosed as cramps.

Even without these roadblocks, some may find it unnecessary to receive a formal diagnosis. For example, if someone has ADHD but does not need accommodations, a formal diagnosis may not be necessary for that individual. Remember, medical choices like receiving a diagnosis are up to the personal discretion of the individual, but it does not make their disorder any less real.

Educated self-diagnosis does not hurt anyone. Doctors with the best intentions can misdiagnose in the same way a self-diagnosed person could. The act of diagnosing oneself can potentially become a problem when people seek out treatment, but that is not why most self-diagnose. In order to receive drugs or therapy, someone who self-diagnosed would need a professional diagnosis to receive that treatment. This leads to the question: Why would someone self-diagnose if they cannot access treatment?

Living with a disorder does in fact exist outside of the medical context. Disorders do not become real only when diagnosed by a professional. Those without access to a diagnosis still have the disorder, and a self-diagnosis can help them cope. A diagnosis is simply an explanation for why you are who you are. Labeling yourself with a disorder or illness can help you understand your actions and feelings and learn to cope with your disorder. It enables you to find a community of people who understand and support you. Self-diagnosis leads to you making sense of yourself.

Many people may not understand how diagnosis actually occurs in a professional setting. Mostly, you fill out a checklist or questionnaire. They often simply describe symptoms and ask if you relate. All of these resources can be found online, the only difference being the hefty bill you receive at the doctors. While they do have valuable expertise and training, medical professionals are not magic genies who know everything about everyone’s mental state.

Self-diagnosis in no way is meant to undermine professional diagnosis, and self-advocacy is definitely something everyone should engage in while receiving healthcare. Insisting on a professional diagnosis from people who have mental illness or other disorders, however, disregards the challenges that those people face in receiving said diagnosis. Those who make an educated, truthful self-diagnosis are no less than one who received a professional one. Implying so puts even more pressure on those who need and deserve our support, rather than our judgement.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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100 Ways To Practice Self-Care In Your Everyday Life, In 20 Minutes Or Less

Simple ways to start taking care of yourself.

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Life is overwhelming and distracting so it's easy to forget about yourself sometimes, but practicing small self-care acts is easy. Making time for yourself every day isn't selfish and is really good for your mental health. I think it's important for everyone to spend time doing things that make them happy and more calm, even if you only dedicate 20 minutes each day. Putting yourself first can lead to growth so many other aspects of your life.

Obviously, each person is allowed to practice self-care in their own unique way, but here are some ideas to get you started!

1. Do something new. 

2. Make a list of things you need to get done that week. 

3. Drink some hot tea. 

4. Go for a walk on a scenic trail.

5. Paint your nails.

6. Have a good laugh.

7. Buy yourself flowers.

8. Light a candle.

9. Do some tidying up.

10. Don't feel bad for saying 'no.'

11. Listen to music.

12. Slow down.

13. Drink a smoothie.

14. Run mindless errands.

15. Write down your goals for the week.

16. Talk to someone about the future.

17. Wake up early and get coffee. 

18. Take care of a plant. 

19. Take a bubble bath. 

20. Give yourself a compliment.

21. Give a stranger a compliment.

22. Watch a movie.

23. Put your phone down.

24. Declutter your personal space.

25. Go to bed early. 

26. Pray or meditate. 

27. Go for a drive. 

28. Make it a habit to stargaze. 

29. Read a book. 

30. Read poems. 

31. Sing loudly. 

32. Make a list of things you're grateful for. 

33. Drink a lot of water. 

34. Put on make-up for no reason.

35. Watch funny videos. 

36. Take a deep breath. 

37. Distance yourself from negativity. 

38. Unfollow people you don't care to follow on social media. 

39. Have a pajama day. 

40. Read an inspirational book. 

41. Call your parents/ loved ones. 

42. Donate old clothing. 

43. Dedicate a day out of the week to not eating meat. 

44. Do a fun craft or DIY project. 

45. Put on a face mask and relax. 

46. Do a small workout. 

47. Take a power nap. 

48. Listen to a podcast. 

49. Open a window. 

50. Open your curtains in the morning to let in natural light. 

51. Make your bed. 

52. Cook dinner instead of eating out. 

53. Play/ cuddle with an animal. 

54. At the end of the day, think of all the positive things that happened.

55. Moisturize. 

56. Buy a comforting blanket. 

57. Give someone a hug. 

58. Create a vision board. 

59. Have some alone time.

60. Enjoy the sun on your skin. 

61. Dance like nobody is watching.

62. Walk in the rain every once in a while. 

63. Drive with the windows down. 

64. Give someone a gift for no reason. 

65. Get a massage. 

66. Do something that gets your adrenaline running. 

67. Spend the day at the library or a book store. 

68. Organize your work space/ binders. 

69. Spend a weekend in. 

70. Recognize hard work and reward yourself. 

71. Sign up for a work out class. 

72. Eat lunch with a friend. 

73. Spend the day helping others. 

74. Get your hair done. 

75. Have a good cry. 

76. Use sticky notes. 

77. Color code your planner. 

78. Print out pictures and hang them up. 

79. Hang motivational quotes on your mirror and read them when you get ready. 

80. Do random acts of kindness. 

81. Buy fuzzy socks. 

82. Redecorate or rearrange furniture. 

83. Be present. 

84. Set a new years resolution. 

85. Make a bucket list. 

86. Stretch in the morning. 

87. Watch an interesting documentary. 

88. Make a music playlist.

89. Watch the sunrise or sunset. 

90. Explore somewhere new.

91. Be slow to respond to negativity. 

92. Have a game night with friends. 

93. Buy concert tickets. 

94. Have a nightly routine before bed. 

95. Eat your favorite dessert. 

96. Do something you've been putting off. 

97. Invest in essential oils. 

98. Manage your finances. 

99. Buy a new outfit. 

100. Make your own gratitude list. 

Try at least one of these every week and see how you feel! I guarantee you will notice a difference in the way you are living your life.

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Poetry On Odyssey: A Stress Call

It's the most stressful time of the year!

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It's the season of stress

When people seem the busiest

Final exams, presents and time

Students grades are on the line


Is it really the season of love and giving

Or are people too worried about money and winning

People stress about everything, big or small

It is not healthy all in all


Stress plagues peoples lives

People are too focused on "mine, mine mine"

In the world we live in, what can we do

About not having people or outlets to turn to


In a world with such confusion

And problems knocking at the door

Is anyone paying attention

To the call of the people anymore


Stress may seem overbearing

Or impossible to defeat

Keep your eyes on the dreams

You've always wanted to complete


Stress is just a roadblock

On the road called life

Continue to press on

It will be alright

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