By Eilish McKay, Provisional Psychologist at PsychMed
Self-diagnosing or assessing through the internet
Do you use ‘Dr Google’? Have you found yourself searching your symptoms only to find a long list of potential conditions? Or perhaps you’ve taken an online ‘diagnosis’ quiz? If so, you are not alone! With the increase in accessibility to health information, so too has the urge to self-diagnose. While the internet can be a great tool to find support and services or explore initial symptoms, we should steer away from making any self-diagnoses for various reasons. For some time, the health community has expressed concern regarding the reliability of Web-based medical content and the likelihood of inaccurate information misleading users (Eysenbach & Köhler, 2002). Subsequently, this often leads people to inaccurately self-diagnose, potentially causing needless anxiety, stress and/or engagement in incorrect (even harmful) interventions.
So, what’s a better option?
Even if a credible source published the information, it is critical that you see a health professional, specifically a psychiatrist or psychologist, for a formal diagnosis or assessment of a potential psychological disorder. It is often difficult to see oneself objectively. No one truly can! So, a professional will ask you specific questions from an outside perspective to understand how your experiences fit into a diagnostic framework. This diagnostic framework is usually the classification system known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5; APA, 2013).
A diagnosis is made through a process that involves consideration of your symptoms, context and life history. It also involves completing psychometric and psychological tests, which have been deemed valid and reliable by credible and peer-reviewed research (Love, 2022). Information may also be gathered from your family and/or from previous treatment records. The professional will integrate all this information and determine whether your symptoms match the specific criteria in the DSM-5 for a particular psychological disorder and if there is a significant level of disturbance in your cognitive, emotional, or behavioural functioning. This process is important because the professional will also assess for possible co-morbidities or other diagnoses that may better explain your symptoms.
Private Assessments at PsychMed
PsychMed has many experienced practitioners who provide a range of assessments and reports, including:
- Neurodevelopmental assessments: e.g., Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorders.
- Neurocognitive assessments: e.g., Adult and child IQ assessments, Intellectual Disability Disorder and Learning Disability Disorders.
- Adult and child behavioural and personality disorders.
- Vocational testing: e.g., Suitability and capability for workplace roles, which can include helping individuals return to work or identify a well-matched occupation based on their abilities and personality in the first instance.
Undertaking a formal assessment is always your personal choice. Positive outcomes associated with this process include a better understanding and clarity of why you may be experiencing certain symptoms or better insight into your abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Subsequently, this can make finding the proper treatment and interventions easier and more effective. It can also assist in ruling out other possibilities, which might otherwise lead to unnecessary, unhelpful, or even harmful interventions (Love, A., 2022). With this information, you may also be eligible for funded practical, social, and/or educational support. PsychMed can assess individuals for a wide range of referring concerns. Contact us on (08) 8232 2424 to learn more about how we can help.
American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.
Love, A., 2022. The diagnostic dilemma | APS. [online] Psychology.org.au. Available at: <https://psychology.org.au/for-members/publications/inpsych/2018/feb/the-diagnostic-dilemma>
Eysenbach G, Köhler C. How do consumers search for and appraise health information on the world wide web? qualitative studies using focus groups, usability test, and in-depth interviews. Brit Med J. 2002;324:573–577.