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  • Stephanie Fleischer (writer); Regina Reichstein (editor)

Welcome to …‘Therapy TikTok!’

Updated: 6 days ago

Hey everyone! Does anyone ever think back to what life was like pre-pandemic? How did we ever manage so many activities throughout the day without getting tired? How would we sit in huge lecture halls without wearing masks? Life has no doubt changed significantly. Everyone has managed to adapt to these new, different lifestyles under such uncertain times. A whole year full of two-week quarantines, intermittent lockdowns and Covid-19 restrictions has already passed. If someone were to ask me, “What was something that got you through the year?”, my answer would definitely be TikTok. I’m sure we’re all guilty of spending too much time on TikTok nowadays. For many, this app quickly became our new favorite social media platform, as well as an outlet to relieve stress, procrastinate on lectures, and to remove ourselves from the stresses of Covid-19 that circulates around us 24/7.


TikTok is a video-sharing social networking app that has rapidly become one of the most widely used and popular apps during this past year. The app gained popularity around the beginning of 2020, simultaneously alongside the escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic that was quickly spreading around the globe and making daily headlines. There are many sides to TikTok. At first, the app was most known for its ‘viral dances’ in which teenagers and young adults would perform trendy dances to popular music and post them onto the app. As the app continued to grow, new and different sides to TikTok emerged, appealing to different age and cultural demographics. For example, there are TikTok creators posting TikToks relating to music, tutorial videos, influencer collaborations, dance, cooking, traveling, and more.



TikTok is a video-sharing social networking app that has rapidly become one of the most widely used and popular apps during this past year. The app gained popularity around the beginning of 2020, simultaneously alongside the escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic that was quickly spreading around the globe and making daily headlines. There are many sides to TikTok. At first, the app was most known for its ‘viral dances’ in which teenagers and young adults would perform trendy dances to popular music and post them onto the app. As the app continued to grow, new and different sides to TikTok emerged, appealing to different age and cultural demographics. For example, there are TikTok creators posting TikToks relating to music, tutorial videos, influencer collaborations, dance, cooking, traveling, and more.


Originally, psychologists and medical professionals joined the app to temporarily disconnect from reality and watch or create ‘trendy’ videos. These therapists began to create short videos offering education, advice, and tips on different mental health topics, using their platform to help to try to “meet an anxious generation of young people where they are on social media” (Dani Blum, New York Times).


After a year of Covid-19 cases rising and falling, the imposed lockdowns have made quarantining at home almost second nature. People’s daily lives and routines have dramatically changed to cope with these new measures as well as the new ‘virtual environment and life’ we are living in.


Isolation at home, separation from loved ones, and the removal of normal daily activities has tested everyone’s personal will and coping abilities, taking a significant toll on our mental health. TikTok has offered relief as a distraction from reality, connected people in similar situations around the globe, and reassured us that we are not alone.


Therapists have found a way to deliver a “bitesize education,” revolutionizing how youth views mental health. Clinical psychologist Dr. Julie Smith is one of the many therapists who gained stardom overnight, and was overwhelmed with followers after posting short educational videos covering a range of topics of mental health including: “self-sabotage, anxiety, and narcissism.” Dr. Smith currently has over 2.7 million followers and 27.5 million likes. One of her most popular videos discusses the prevalence of mental illness and reaffirms that no one struggling is alone.


In these times, mental health has become especially relevant. Several psychologists have stated that “TikTok offers a more immediate sense of intimacy” as they are building a different type of connection to their “viewers” during these periods of isolation. The line between being a medical professional and an influencer is becoming blurred.


While these videos have shown to be beneficial and have helped many around the world, there are major disadvantages that add to the preexisting negative elements of social media. Some of the more obvious negative effects of TikTok include the exposure to harmful and misinformed content posted. For example, the recent scandal of teenagers taking part in the “Benadryl challenge” has resulted in multiple young adolescents overdosing.


In their quest to tackle complex issues in under 60 seconds, therapists risk “oversimplification,” (Lisa Henderson, New York Times). A major issue that is rising is 'self-diagnosis’, which occurs when viewers relate to a diagnosis described in the TikTok and believe that it applies to them. These “therapy” videos are not quick fixes or solutions for viewers. Instead, viewers should absorb the information and seek counseling or other therapeutic support if needed.


With quick access to information nowadays, the “opportunity” and “temptation” for people to self-diagnose and reach their own conclusions is extremely common (Srini Pillay, Psychology Today). One must think critically when researching information online as there is a high chance of false information. Although many users will find commonality with TikToks explaining different mental health issues, viewers must be cautious of assuming that specific diagnoses applies to them. Long periods that young people spend on the app can be very taxing on mental health, and repeated exposure to 'informational' videos can lead to self-diagnosis when the diagnosis itself may not apply.


One of the greatest dangers of self-diagnosis is coming to the conclusion that unexplained symptoms are psychological when they may be medical issues that the user is trying to minimize or deny. Self-diagnosis can increase concern when people ascribe different or greater issues to themselves than they have and making the situation worse by worrying more. Moreover, self-diagnosis often means missing factors and conclusions that a qualified professional would be able to catch. This is why it is vital to seek a registered mental health professional when necessary to avoid any negative repercussions of an untreated illness. Mental health professionals are there to provide help, support, and aid in overcoming obstacles.


While mental health information on TikTok has potentially negative consequences, it has proved to be educational and supportive to large numbers of people. Therapy TikTok has raised awareness of mental health, deepening powerful discussions around the world. Growing numbers of people are more knowledgeable about different mental states, how the brain works, and how they can help others around them. It has provided a safe space for those who are struggling to seek advice, validation, support, and a community reminding them that they are not alone during these tough times. Although Therapy TikTok is prone to some negative consequences including self-diagnosis, there are many positive educational and awareness benefits that can support those who are struggling.


References

1. Blum, D. (2021, January 12). Therapists Are on TikTok. And How Does That Make You Feel? Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/12/well/mind/tiktok-therapists.html

2. Curley, Bob. (2020, September). ‘Benadryl Challenge’ on TikTok Is Dangerous, Experts Say. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/benadryl-challenge-on-tiktok-is-dangerou s-experts-say#The-dangers-of-viral-challenges

3. Pillay, Srini. (2010, May). The Dangers of Self-Diagnosis. How self-diagnosis can lead you down the wrong path. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/debunking-myths-the-mind/201005/t he-dangers-self-diagnosis#:~:text=Another%20danger%20of%20self%2Ddiag nosis,for%20all%20of%20these%20symptoms

4. Rech, D. (2020, November 27). A therapist fights online toxicity, one TikTok video at a time. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/27/health/tiktok-therapist-mental-health-intl-wellness /index.html

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