Can TikTok Help Diagnose Mental Illnesses?
Some users claim to have multiple personalities, or dissociative identity disorder.
In a now viral TikTok video posted in September, 18-year-old creator the Wonderland System publicized their dissociative identity disorder, or DID, introducing their multiple “alters,” or personalities to their audience online. While the TikTok user claimed to be professionally diagnosed with the mental disorder, the video has been the subject of much criticism with claims that the teenager is falsifying their mental state. It’s worth noting that the backlash started when the Wonderland System revealed that some of their alters held conservative Republican views.
The trending video signals a wider phenomenon, as the DID Disorder hashtag has over 1 million views on TikTok. While mental health is becoming less taboo, there is still a considerable stigma surrounding mental illness, particularly more severe or rare cases. Many are understandably turning to the internet, and subsequently social media, for the answers to their troubles. Because our psychiatric system at large has historically disenfranchised and invalidated the illnesses of minority groups, namely women and people of color, many communities from autism spectrum disorder to ADHD accept those who self-diagnose, providing those who were previously invalidated and disbelieved with newfound self-acceptance, not to mention the tools and resources to improve the qualities of their lives.
While many of us are guilty of pouring over WebMD for physical ailments, referring to social media for mental health advice can certainly go awry, as the credibility of those on the other side of the screen can be murky. In turn, it is unfair and counterproductive to criticize, or even bully those who choose to share their inner worlds with an online audience.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, research-based psychology professor Dr. Inna Kanevsky asserts that TikTok is “teeming with users who feel qualified to pass judgment on any psychological issue. Given that it is ethically inappropriate for even qualified professionals to make diagnostic claims about people they haven’t met and examined, I find it very disturbing that so many TikTok users see fit to claim that they are definitely faking.”