TikTok is a really popular app where people can make and share videos. It’s especially popular among young people, with over a billion users from around the world. Many of these users are between 10 and 29 years old. TikTok is now even more popular than Instagram among teenagers between 12 and 17 years old, and about 63% of them use it every week. Data provided by the World Health Organization reveals that in 2021, 1 out of every 7 adolescents aged 10 to 19 faced mental health difficulties. The rising popularity of TikTok among young people has sparked concerns among parents, policymakers, and clinicians regarding its impact on the mental health of youth. Like any issue, it is important to consider both sides of the discussion.
The Good Side of TikTok on Mental Health
Many parents are worried that social media, whatever platform it is, only brings distraction and problems to their teens. Social media has always been painted as a bad guy. There are tons of studies that back up the negative effects of social media. This does not exempt TikTok. However, TikTok has its own positive aspects that not many parents know about, and these are:
Open Discussion About Mental Health
There is a growing mental health crisis among American teenagers. They are now looking for alternative sources of support and information. As a result, many of them are turning to social media platforms like TikTok, where they self-diagnose themselves with significant mental health issues.
TikTok has become a prominent platform with a multitude of mental health videos covering various topics, including anxiety and depression. Users across different age groups have enthusiastically joined TikTok to share their personal experiences. They also provide helpful guidance for coping with diverse mental health challenges. The platform fosters a sense of inclusivity and diversity, enabling individuals to connect, gain valuable insights, and offer mutual support in navigating their mental health journeys.
This phenomenon has garnered praise for its positive impact. These videos raise awareness about important mental health issues and contribute to a greater comfort level among young individuals when discussing their own mental health. Moreover, these videos shed light on symptoms of mental health conditions that some individuals may not have recognized in themselves. This newfound awareness can motivate them to take action and seek help, leading to a proper mental health diagnosis and the development of a plan to facilitate their recovery.
Provides Validation and Community
On TikTok, young people who are facing their own challenges have the opportunity to connect and provide support to one another. They share valuable advice and strategies on how to cope with symptoms related to various mental health conditions. The most common conditions among teens are eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, and depression. The viral TikTok videos discussing these realities help to normalize mental health issues and convey the important message that people are not alone in their struggles.
During the prolonged period of the COVID-19 pandemic, TikTok has emerged as a supportive community for numerous teens. Through thousands of conversations, people have openly discussed their mental health, shared coping strategies, and expressed optimism for the future. As a result, the app has become a source of solace and reassurance for many young people.
The Bad Side of TikTok on Mental Health
While the rise in discussions surrounding mental health on platforms like TikTok has undoubtedly had positive impacts, there are also negative consequences to consider. Mental health professionals reported a surge in teens claiming who have severe mental health conditions like ADHD or bipolar disorder after being exposed to certain content on TikTok.
Gives Out Wrong Information
According to a recent study, approximately 52% of the top 100 most popular TikTok videos related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were misleading. Some of these videos wrongly suggested that specific symptoms were exclusively indicative of ADHD. Additionally, there have been observations linking TikTok to an increase in tics among adolescents. Experts theorize that influencers on the platform may be influencing young women, in particular, to imitate their behaviors, potentially leading to the development of tics.
TikTok tracks user activity and customizes the content on their “For You” page based on their preferences. This means that if young users engage with mental health-related content, TikTok will prioritize showing them similar content.
Worsens Mental Health Conditions
It is widely acknowledged that social media has a notable influence on the mental health of teenagers. Adolescents who spend extended periods of time on social media are more likely to experience mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Additionally, they can become agitated when they are unable to access social media as frequently as they would prefer.
Research suggests that children who already have complex mental health challenges or have experienced environmental stressors or trauma may experience temporary increases in emotional symptoms following their use of TikTok.
TikTok can have similar impacts, including unintentionally worsening symptoms of anxiety and depression. Furthermore, it may encourage teenagers to self-diagnose with a mental illness after identifying with certain symptoms depicted on the platform. This can happen without consulting a medical expert, resulting in a potential misdiagnosis.
When young adults engage in self-diagnosis, it can stem from various motivations. Some may self-diagnose to fit in, rebel, or genuinely believe they have an illness. However, attention and support received for this self-diagnosis can strengthen their beliefs and amplify perceived symptoms. This phenomenon has been referred to as the “horoscope effect,” implying that it functions as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The popularity of mental health content on TikTok leads to a concerning trend of young individuals self-diagnosing mental health conditions. While relatability to symptoms can be beneficial, there is a risk of misinterpreting normal thoughts and feelings as severe conditions. This results to cause unnecessary distress and self-diagnosis.
If your teen is constantly worried about their mental health and it has caused them severe stress and anxiety, consider reaching out to Mindshift Psychological Services for support. Our team of experienced psychiatrists is available to provide guidance, evaluate their concerns, and recommend the most suitable treatment options. Contact us at (714) 584-9700 to schedule an appointment.