It is becoming increasingly apparent to psychologists that TikTok is having an adverse effect on mental health amongst its users, particularly adolescents, with an increasing number of users self-diagnosing with rare mental disorders as well as waves of teens showing identical [tic] patterns witnessed on popular TikTok accounts.
It is a great venue for teens and others to share information about their mental health struggles and avoid stigmatizing mental disorders through the use of a social media platform dedicated to posting short videos.
In the process of gaining popularity of the platform, mental health influencers have also become a new social media celebrity due to the platform.
There is now growing concern among some psychologists that TikTok users are not always getting information that is beneficial to their mental health, instead of harming it.
New York Licensed Psychologist Dr. Amy Beth Taublieb tells Top Class Actions that she is concerned about vulnerable young children or even adults who are hungry for information.
In the course of her career as a psychologist, Dr. Taublieb has seen a lot of potential benefits of the rise of the self-help movement on technology platforms; however, unchecked information is the problem.
“I don’t see TikTok as good or bad in and of itself, but I think that if it’s misused, it can do great harm,” she says.
TikTok’s mental health content leads to a rise in teens self-diagnosing
A recent surge in teens self-diagnosing with mental disorders has been linked to TikTok’s popularity of mental health content, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Several patients a week were self-diagnosing with relatively rare disorders, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) and tourette syndrome, at a child psychiatric facility in Montana last summer.
Video clips containing the hashtag #bpd have been viewed 4.2 billion times on TikTok. However, there are only 1.6% of Americans who suffer from BPD according to recent research.
The popularity of #BPD content was a good thing, says TikTok mental health influencer and board-certified mental health clinician Dr. Kojo Sarfo. Using the hashtag himself, he says he is getting evidence-based information about the disorder out to people.
“I am well aware that borderline personality disorder is one of the most misunderstood issues facing society today. We should educate the youth about this condition and remove the stigma associated with it,” he says.
The internet, he says, has “a high chance of misinformation.” He hopes people are curious enough about mental health topics to keep educating themselves.
Social media users have little protection against misinformation.
TikTok is not only run by medical professionals, but anyone can post mental health content, and the videos are not fact-checked in any way.
Dr. Taublieb says there isn’t a ton of legislation or control over who posts about Tourettes or BPD on TikTok.
TikTok might seem like a safe place to figure out why they aren’t feeling well, but people could end up misdiagnosing themselves.
‘I strongly believe that no psychological, emotional, or psychiatric diagnosis can be made with a questionnaire,’ says Dr. Taublieb.
If you’re worried about your teen, she advises you to talk to them.
The TikTok tics are mirrored on all platforms.
In addition, neurologists are blaming TikTok for an increase in teens seeking medical treatment for involuntary tics.
There have been 5.6 billion views of videos with the hashtag #tourettes on TikTok, despite the Centers for Disease Control estimating that 0.3% of children aged 6–17 in the United States have the syndrome.
Researchers found certain tics, such as saying “beans” in a British accent, were mirrored by young people across social media platforms after assessing videos with the keywords “tic,” “tourette” or “tourettes” published on TikTok between Mar. 11, 2020 through Mar. 30, 2021.
“This appears to be an example of mass sociogenic illness, which is the spread of behaviors, emotions or diseases spontaneously through a group,” the study concluded.
It stressed that for clinicians in today’s world to be able to properly assess patients, they must be mindful of social media content.
Social media companies are under fire.
It has now been questioned whether TikTok is putting profits before the mental health and wellbeing of its users.
When teens use TikTok, they may be presented with content they don’t ask for on their “for you” page. If they watch mental health content, the app’s algorithm will continuously serve them similar content.
Concerns have been raised by the government about the effects of these platforms on young users.
According to a report by the U.S. Surgeon General on Youth Mental Health published in 2021, “Business models are often built around increasing user engagement rather than ensuring that users engage with one another in safe and healthy ways.”
According to the report, technology companies are maximizing time spent rather than spending time wisely.
Check out TikTok’s response.
Top Class Actions was told by a spokesperson for TikTok that, in regards to the study on TikTok tics and social media, the company is consulting closely with experts, who point out that correlation does not imply causation, and that more research is necessary to understand this specific experience.
According to TikTok, people living with Tourette Syndrome have found a place on the platform where they can face stigma and express themselves authentically.
Despite teens self-diagnosing themselves with mental disorders after viewing mental health content on TikTok, a representative of the company tells Top Class Action that it invests in digital literacy programs that help people evaluate and comprehend the content they engage with on the Internet.
According to the spokesperson, individuals who require support should seek professional medical advice.
It is possible to sue these companies if you or your child suffer from depression, eating disorders, cutting, body dysmorphia, or other mental health conditions.