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Why you should rethink taking that online mental-health quiz


Mental health quizzes: Are they bad for you? Pin It
Photo: Stocksy/Guille Faingold

How many times have you been told not to google something? When it comes to diagnosing medical issues—especially complicated or vague ones—the internet seems more adept at raising more questions than providing solid answers. And while, yes, making an appointment to see a doctor can be difficult and scary (though it doesn’t have to be), so is thinking that a benign zit is housing some sort of airborne disease. The same is true when it comes to mental health, according to an article on The Cut: Yep, there are solid reasons to avoid online self-diagnosis.

On the website Mental Health America, more than a million people reportedly took an online screening quiz for a mental health condition in 2016, The Cut reported. People wondering whether they suffered from depression and bipolar disorder, among other mental health issues, used the site as a diagnostic tool. It’s easy to understand why people want to know if there’s something “wrong” with them, but experts quoted in the article agree diagnosis is never as easy as sitting down and taking a quiz. After all, a mental health quiz and a Myers-Briggs personality questionnaire are not the same thing. “It’s important to consider a patient’s history and how they appear—all of the things a doctor might see in person that the internet can’t,” the post points out.

But the tools aren’t without value: They can be a useful first step. “There are people who are really unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the idea of going to see someone, who maybe can’t afford it or don’t live in an area where there’s much of it,” psychoanalyst and psychiatry professor Gail Saltz, MD, told The Cut. “This might be another step on their way to realizing that actually, they probably do [need to] speak with someone.”

While using a quiz as a first step on the journey to getting help isn’t a bad idea, it can also become a tool that enables you to avoid your issues. You probably won’t know what’s really going on (or start your recovery process) until you see an actual professional.

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