Misinformation on TikTok Causing Many to Misdiagnose Themselves as Autistic

As the global youth population increases its use of social media, misinformation continues to be a danger to many. Joseph O’Brien, a manager at Inspira Health’s Behavioral Wellness Center, stated that social media had increased the dangers of self-diagnosis.

Social media apps such as TikTok are already used to spread misinformation, particularly on developmental and mental-health conditions. Various posts include individuals sharing their self-diagnosis of conditions such as autism spectrum disorder despite mental-health professionals on the same TikTok platform highlighting the importance of getting diagnosed by a licensed medical provider.

A recent study by the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute determined that only 27% of popular TikToks related to autism contained accurate information. For their study, the researchers analyzed engagement indicators such as likes and views on TikTok videos linked to the autism hashtag. They fact checked the contents of popular videos, focusing on those that provided information on autism such as what causes the disorder and how to identify it. The researchers then classified the videos as either inaccurate, accurate or overgeneralization, based on the consistency of the data in the videos.

The study found that 41% of these videos were entirely inaccurate while 32% of them were too generalized. In their report, the study found that inaccurate and misleading videos had been viewed nearly 150 million times.

Pediatric psychologist Diane Franz stated that while more attention on autism could bring about better understanding and advocacy for the condition, misleading information on social media was still harmful. She noted that looking for diagnosis to explain differences in behavior and personality minimized the significance of living with a disorder that affected different aspects of an individual’s life and took away from accepting normal variations among adults as well as children.

Franz added that the use of standardized assessments by professionals helped maintain the integrity of the diagnostic system while also ensuring that those who needed help were identified.

It should be noted that autism spectrum disorder diagnosis is done over a period of time because therapists need to collect information while becoming more familiar with their patients.

Other dangers of misinformation of autism on social media include:

  • Attaching oneself to misinformation, which may make it hard for therapists to navigate the diagnosis. This is especially true for autism spectrum disorder, cannabis use disorder, mood disorders and borderline personality disorders.
  • Watering down of official language used by mental-health providers, which has changed meanings of diagnosis. This is mainly because these terms are used in a way not used by professionals.

Social-media misinformation may also hinder many who would have benefited from the novel ASD treatments being developed by entities such as PaxMedica Inc. (NASDAQ: PXMD) from reaching out to the professionals who can prescribe the suitable medications for the condition.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to PaxMedica Inc. (NASDAQ: PXMD) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/PXMD

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