Study shows how unreliable TikTok mental health advice is

Sharing mental health advice on social media is becoming increasingly common, but how can you be sure that what you’re reading is accurate and safe?

To determine the accuracy of mental health information provided on social media, psychiatrists at Delamere have analysed popular TikTok posts to find out how much of what’s being shared is accurate, and how much of it is misinformation.

The research found that 61% of the information provided on TikTok about mental health is incorrect.

Here’s a quick visual overview of some of their findings, with example videos scored out of 10 for the following criteria; contains 100% correct information, advises viewers to speak to a doctor, qualified and trusted creator, suitable for the audience.

Chart showing list of popular tiktok videos rated out of 40 for safety and accuracy of mental health information. No video scores more than 26/40 and most score 15 or below.

Despite having more than 10 million views, the TikTok video “Signs of high functioning anxiety’ was only 50% accurate. ‘Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder’ scored even lower, with a shocking score of just 13 out of the possible 40.

The research found that no videos advised viewers to seek further mental advice from their doctor and only three videos were created by a qualified or trusted creator. Videos on the theme of addiction and eating disorders performed just as badly.

Dr Catherine Carney, Psychiatrist at private rehab clinic Delamere, says; 

“It makes sense why more and more people are turning to social media for advice on their mental health as they can receive instant information regarding their troubling queries, instead of waiting for a doctors appointment or seeing a mental health specialist. 

The issue with seeking advice on social media is that you could be provided with completely incorrect information which could end up becoming an added detriment to your health. 

It can be tough to verify the sourced information found on social media, as anyone can share their opinions and methods of treatment without being a qualified or trusted creator – that’s what makes this form of diagnosis so dangerous. 

Health information on social media is often too general. Each person has a different family and health background which can contribute to the decision-making process a medical professional goes through when deciding on a proper diagnosis or treatment method. That’s why it’s important to speak to a doctor, as they will have knowledge about you and your medical history, which will make your experience less stressful and more accurate. 

People often experience heightened feelings of stress when self-diagnosing online and on social media, they often assume the worst before speaking to a professional about their symptoms and condition, which puts patients at greater risk both physically and mentally. 

Social media is a great tool for finding open conversations about mental health and connecting with others who have experiences that resonate with you. But it’s important that when using platforms such as TikTok you don’t assume that someone who is displaying symptoms of a mental health disorder has the same diagnosis as you. 

With mental health conditions, there are often overlapping symptoms that can be an indicator for a diagnosis, so approach content on social media with caution.” 

How to avoid self-diagnosing on social media 

  • Speak to a professional – While it’s hard to break the habit of self-diagnosing online, it’s not healthy to continue. If you’re finding it difficult to limit or stop the behaviour, it’s important to speak to a mental health professional. Speaking to a specialist will help to ease feelings of anxiety and stress when your feelings are spiralling out of control. 
  • Use trusted medical institutions – If you are seeking medical information or advice online make sure you are using the websites of trusted medical institutions such as the official NHS website. For the vast majority of medical concerns, there will be an established, trustworthy charitable organisation set up with a professional website that will answer most questions. 
  • Set a limit – Break from the habit of self-diagnosing by setting a limit on the time you spend watching and searching for mental health videos on social media. Set yourself a time limit, once you have reached it, stop searching and look for something alternative to do. 

To find out more about the Delamare research, including the findings around TikTok videos discussing addiction, visit https://delamere.com/blog/danger-of-medical-misinformation-on-social-media

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