Are you sometimes unfocused? Do you often find bruises on yourself because you keep bumping into furniture? And do you ever fool around? Well, then it’s probably ADHD. Such and similar blanket diagnoses are given excessively in certain filter bubbles on social media such as Instagram or Tiktok. “This is currently a big topic,” says media psychologist Joachim Schmidt of the German Press Agency. “I get offers like this thrown at me all the time.”

If you search for the keyword “psychology” on Instagram, dozens of profiles are immediately displayed. If you expand the search to the English-speaking world, there are many more, with sometimes hundreds of thousands of subscribers. The psychologist Angelina Hahn offers a very diverse range of therapeutic content. “There are good therapists and doctors who make mental health topics available to the general public. But there are also laypeople who are perhaps just studying it,” she says in the run-up to World Mental Health Day on October 10th.

Two psychologists have clear positions on this

Although it sounds like stupid internet chatter, it doesn’t always have to be negative. “I think it’s a great thing that mental illnesses are being talked about more, and young people in particular are being made aware of these issues,” says Schmidt. Hahn also sees it similarly. “I think it’s nice that the topic is made accessible to people in this way. For the older generation it might still be taboo.” In her opinion, such offers also reduced the inhibition threshold to seek real help. “And: I think it gives people the feeling that they are not alone.”

Because: The internet is of course not just about ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), says Schmidt. “Depression, narcissism, fears: these are diagnoses that often appear in such articles.” In his opinion, this is also because such clinical pictures are supposedly easier to recognize at first glance. “And many people think they have some idea about mental illness.”

No panacea for psychological suffering

Just as you don’t have to stay alone with your suffering, you also need to be careful when conducting self-analyses, says the psychologist. “I always notice with my clients that they get information from social media and then try to apply it to their own feelings,” says Schmidt. “However, self-diagnoses are doubtful, even dangerous, and often not appropriate.” As with other medical issues, the diagnosis of a mental illness requires a lot of knowledge and tools. There are also no patent recipes, as mental illnesses in particular can have very individual characteristics. “Many guides do not do justice to the complexity of a clinical picture.”

The Professional Association of German Psychologists advises checking the profiles carefully. “Who releases the information, what interests may be associated with it, how serious and confidential is the source and how complete is the information?” says association president Thordis Bethlehem. She urges caution: people hardly see their own strengths, resources and opportunities in crises. However, the focus on stress, problems and deficits makes them receptive to self-diagnosis. Therapy “out of the box” doesn’t really do justice to what people need.

Mental illness is not a marginal phenomenon

In Germany, around a quarter of adults are affected by a mental illness every year, writes the German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics and Neurology. Of these 17.8 million people, only around a fifth (18.9 percent) would contact relevant experts. According to this year’s figures, anxiety disorders, mood disorders such as depression and alcohol and drug use disorders are among the most common mental illnesses. Statistically, people with mental illness have a life expectancy that is ten years shorter.

During “Mental Health Week” from October 10th to 20th, an action alliance is drawing attention to the importance of the topic. The theme week is a call to take psychological stress in yourself and those around you seriously, said Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD), patron of the action week, in a welcoming speech. Around 500 face-to-face and online events as part of the theme week draw attention to existing offers of help. The Mental Health Action Alliance wants to address fears in times of crisis with the motto “Together, taking the weight off fear”. The aim of the action week is to lower the inhibition threshold “to seek and accept help and support when you are afraid in times of crisis,” said Lauterbach.