Don’t Self-Diagnose

Yes, I’m still in my psychology class, and I’m still thoroughly enjoying it. Today we made it to the DSM-5, the “bible” of psychological disorders. And as part of the introduction, we had a discussion on self-diagnosis. To me, this has always been a pretty cut and dried topic: I don’t know nearly as much as psychological professionals do, so why would I think I’d be able to read over some symptoms and decide whether I had some disorder or not?

Interestingly, not all of the students felt the same way, and as I thought about it, I realized that I fall into that train of thought more often than I’d like to believe. I’ve blogged about this before: The Dangers of Easy Information. Three years ago, I wrote about how my car had been having troubles, so I Googled around to find out what was up. I was convinced it was something wrong with my car battery, to the point that I brought it to my mechanic and told him what was up. He thought I was totally off, but I insisted.

Surprise, surprise. I was wrong.

It’s hard for us to recognize just how far off we are from an expert opinion, especially when we don’t wholly understand the field we’re dabbling in. We just don’t get the complete picture, so it’s easy to think we’re at a 5 or 6 out of 10 when it comes to how much we know, when we’re really at more of a 1.

This is easier for me to understand when I look at an area I’m more of an expert in: evaluating and using information. To me, it’s typically simple to look at something, whether it’s a news article or a video or the claim of someone on the internet, and tell just how reliable that thing is. But I know from experience just how difficult this can be for many people. They assume that since they have access to information, they’re completely capable at evaluating that information and coming to conclusions.

They aren’t.

And so when it comes to things like diseases and mental disorders, it’s that much more important to not decide to take actions based on a limited amount of understanding.

Anyway–I wanted to say all that in class, but they just won’t let me talk in 15 minute stretches. Go figure.


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