Self-tests can be an initial step for some people to gain insight into their condition
In an opinion article in the Belgian quality paper De Standaard, philosopher Tinneke Beeckman highlights the pitfalls of self-diagnosis and the complexity of identity.
Beeckman mentions the emerging trend on TikTok where young people share videos in which they suspect they may have mental conditions such as autism, ADHD, depression, and anxiety disorders. The philosopher observes that these young individuals use simple self-tests to assign themselves a diagnosis.
While this phenomenon can provide a sense of relief and connection, she emphasizes the importance of critically examining the potential risks, such as inaccurate diagnoses and limited self-awareness. In this blog, I want to respond to Tinneke Beeckman’s opinion article from my perspective as an autistic adult and introduce a few nuances.
In our society, the search for identity has become increasingly complex in recent years. For many, seeking an explanation for their differences is actually a way to better understand themselves and find answers to the question, ‘Who am I, and why am I the way I am?’
Receiving a diagnosis can, despite its sometimes negative connotations, provide a sense of relief and connection. It is important to recognize that questions about our identity can be approached from different perspectives. On one hand, we have the need for scientific certainty, while on the other hand, there is room for our inner experience.
Although simple self-tests lack a scientific basis, they can serve as a catalyst for seeking scientific knowledge and be a guide in a sometimes confusing world. However, it should be clear that a diagnosis encompasses more than the result of a self-test and is instead an endeavor that requires specialized knowledge and careful consideration.
Unfortunately, articles about self-diagnosis and self-tests often lack nuance and understanding. It is crucial not to view diagnoses as a simplistic approach that renders further self-reflection unnecessary. While self-tests are sometimes regarded as pseudoscientific and reductionistic, they can be an initial step for some individuals to gain insight into their own experiences and possible conditions.
For autistic adults, finding recognition and community on online platforms like TikTok can be positive. What seems to be lacking there, in my opinion, is the recognition that classifications such as autism do not fully define who we are but represent only one aspect of our identity. This is something I rarely come across in discussions of self-tests or on social media.
Understanding our identity goes beyond the workings of our minds; it also encompasses the influence of our environment, such as social relationships, cultural preferences, socioeconomic positions, beliefs, and habits, as well as the zeitgeist in which we live. It must be clear that solutions to confusion and self-development partly lie outside ourselves, such as improving personal relationships, adapting lifestyles, and striving for social and economic security. Psychological language alone does not provide a complete vocabulary to understand this.
I also want to emphasize that using a diagnosis as an excuse for unwanted behavior is not representative of all autistic adults. While some individuals may use their diagnosis as an excuse, it is essential to stress that responsibility and social interaction require mutual effort. We can learn from others’ reactions, adjust our behavior, and grow. Understanding and accepting the diversity in communication and behavior within the autistic community are crucial.
The phenomenon of self-diagnosis on TikTok raises questions about the complexity of identity, the importance of nuance, and responsibility in social interactions. While self-tests and self-diagnosis cannot replace a professional diagnosis, it is understandable that people seek answers and a sense of connection. However, it is crucial to recognize that a diagnosis tells only part of the story and that other factors, such as our environment, also play a role. Avoiding reductionism and embracing a nuanced approach can help us gain a better understanding of ourselves and others. Let us acknowledge the stories and voices of autistic adults and emphasize that diagnostic classifications do not define their entire being.
My opinion, as hereabove, was published (in Dutch) in the Belgian qualitypaper De Standaard on Monday the 26th of June 2023