The hashtag #TikTokTherapist has been viewed over 1.2 billion times, we look into the phenomenon of ‘TikTok therapy’ and share tips on how to stay mindful when consuming content online

With the rise of social media platform TikTok, video content on mental health has gained popularity in recent years. The hashtag #TikTokTherapist has over 321 million followers, indicating that professional advice on mental health content is a popular topic among users. Whilst TikTok has played a large part in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, professionals are also concerned much of the information is coming from non-qualified sources, which may lead to the consumption of misinformation and problems in self-diagnosis.

Although the growing mental health community on TikTok has allowed people to speak openly about their experiences and encourage others to seek professional help, experts warn that social media has limitations when it comes to diagnosing mental health conditions.

According to the British Psychological Society, teenagers and young adults are increasingly using TikTok and Instagram to self-diagnose conditions. In fact, #ADHD is one of TikTok's most popular hashtags, with over 14.5 billion views many of the videos shared offer tips for diagnosis.

However, a 2022 study found that only 21% of the top 100 most popular ADHD videos on the platform were deemed useful, with a quarter based entirely on personal experience rather than diagnostic criteria and more than half containing inaccurate information which could be classified as misleading.

Virtual healthcare platform PlushCare recently examined 500 TikTok videos with the hashtags #mentalhealthtips and #mentalhealthadvice. The videos were examined by professionals to assess the accuracy and potential risk of the recommendations and advice.

After looking at the content of each video, the researchers found that:

  • 83.7% were misleading
  • 31% contained inaccurate information
  • 14.2% contained potentially damaging advice
  • only 1% contained a disclaimer about a lack of mental health qualifications

How can mental health content on TikTok be useful?

Despite the negative aspects of TikTok's mental health-related content, the positives should not be overlooked. Much of the content on TikTok is extremely valuable in raising awareness and pointing viewers towards useful resources. The easy-to-digest videos help to destigmatise mental health and encourage people to talk about their wellbeing by providing viewers with new terminologies and ways to talk about their symptoms, as well as authentic experiences of what it's like to live with certain conditions. 

Those who are feeling isolated in their struggles often seek validation through platforms such as TikTok, which is especially important in communities where mental health is rarely discussed. This validation can often be the first step people take to seeking professional help.

With so much information at our fingertips, how can we differentiate between useful and potentially harmful content?

  • Avoid making broad generalisations or assumptions about mental health conditions based on information that may or may not be entirely accurate. Remember, even if you’re experiencing all the symptoms listed in a video, it’s difficult to know whether you have a condition without a professional diagnosis.
  • As there's no verification process on TikTok, it may be difficult to know if a creator is qualified to give advice. Licensed professionals will generally share their qualifications, background and resources to help people. If you’re unsure, it may be useful to Google someone to check their background.
  • Try not to interact with misleading or damaging content to prevent the TikTok algorithm from sharing similar content to your for you page.
  • Use TikTok for educational purposes, e.g. to learn more about mental health and wellbeing.
  • Though content on TikTok can help people gather information about mental health, receive validation and become more familiar with conditions, it's important to remember it can't replace the benefits of therapy.

If you're struggling, consider talking to a counsellor who can offer personalised support and guidance. On Counselling Directory, our professionals are verified so you can be sure you’re working with someone qualified and experienced.