Self-Diagnosis of ADHD or Autism IS NOT Valid

Have you ever wondered if it’s safe or accurate to label yourself with a condition like ADHD or autism without a professional diagnosis?
When we talk about self-diagnosing conditions like autism or ADHD, it’s really important to understand why this isn’t just invalid, but can also be dangerous. Diagnosing these conditions involves a lot more than just recognizing a few symptoms that seem to fit.
Conditions like autism and ADHD are incredibly complex. They involve a mix of symptoms that can overlap with other conditions (e.g. anxiety, depression, trauma). Because of this complexity, it’s not just about ticking off a checklist of symptoms.
Why a professional diagnosis is key
Professionals such as psychologists have specific training and tools that help them make accurate diagnoses. They spend years learning how to differentiate one condition from another, something that can’t be matched by online research or self-assessment.
Professionals are trained to understand the nuances of these disorders and can provide the most accurate diagnosis along with the most effective treatment and support strategies. This way, we’re not just guessing about what’s going on; we’re really understanding and addressing it properly.
A trained professional offers an objective perspective that is crucial for a valid diagnosis. It’s hard for us to be completely objective about ourselves because our personal feelings, biases, beliefs and experiences can cloud our judgment.
Without professional guidance, the risk of misdiagnosis is high. Misidentifying one’s condition can lead to choosing treatments or supports that aren’t just ineffective but could potentially worsen the situation.
Long wait times are a catalyst
Many defend the idea of self-diagnosis because of long wait periods to be assessed or financial restrictions that make getting an assessment unaffordable. A self-diagnosis is not the answer. Instead, it’s more honest to say your ADHD or autism is “Pending Diagnosis.
For some, the need for clarity and belonging causes them to jump the gun and take control of the diagnosis so they can confidently include themselves in the Neurodivergent community.
I’ve known people who convinced themselves they have a particular diagnosis, and when finally assessed, are told it’s something else. They exit convinced the doctor is wrong and reach out to their community (fellow self-diagnosers) for validation and often receive it. If you don’t see the harm in this, I don’t know what to tell you.
Another danger is the delay in receiving the right kind of help. By assuming one has a certain condition without professional evaluation, one might miss out on accessing the correct interventions that could really help manage or improve the situation.
Also, there are risks in terms of self-perception. Identifying with a diagnosis without professional input might affect a person’s self-esteem or how they view their own potential and future.
What’s the alternative?
I understand how it feels to be alone, misunderstood most of the time, and like it’s you versus the world because no one gets you. Finding a community with many of the characteristics you have can create an overwhelming need to belong with folks who might ‘get you’ and give you answers you’ve been longing for.
You can get that support from the Neurodivergent community by explaining you’re curious and eager to learn more but that you’re “pending diagnosis.” Self-diagnosing and holding that decision as on par with a medical diagnosis is naive.
Self-diagnosis simply doesn’t hold up against the rigorous standards needed for a valid and reliable diagnosis. It’s always better to seek professional advice (when possible) to ensure accurate understanding and appropriate support.
If a professional diagnosis is likely years away, seek tools and articles on the specific challenges you experience so you can learn to manage them. No one needs a formal diagnosis to work with me by the way, I only need to know where they struggle and we work on strategies to manage, workaround or overcome that struggle.
If you’re navigating these waters and seeking clarity or validation, don’t isolate yourself in the echo chambers of self-diagnosis. Let’s talk—reach out to me, and together, let’s explore the proper steps towards genuine understanding and support. Your journey deserves the right guidance, and I’m here to help you take those steps.

Thanks for being you,

Brian R. King MSW 

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