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Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Self-Diagnosis Is Controversial

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss evaluation and diagnosis.  Prominent people sometimes publicly engage in casual self-diagnosis.  Jerry Seinfeld did so years ago, and got a great deal of negative reaction, causing him to walk back his remarks.  

Laura Newberry at LAT:
As autistic social psychologist Devon Price points out, the diagnostic tools weren’t designed with a diverse patient population in mind. “The procedure for diagnosing autism was designed with young, white, cisgender male patients with visibly obvious symptoms in mind,” Price wrote on his blog. “To this day, it remains very common to be turned away from even being assessed for autism for being too old, too feminine (or effeminate), too socially appropriate, too good at eye contact, too Black, too brown, or too trans.”

In response to these barriers, a growing number of people are using social media and knowledge from those with lived experience in online communities to diagnose themselves with autism and ADHD without a psychologist’s rubber stamp, either out of necessity, principle, or both..


Critics inside and outside of neurodivergent spaces are debating the validity of self-diagnosis.

Some autistic people with a formal diagnosis argue that self-diagnosed people are silencing and diluting the power of “real” autistic people, and taking away resources from those who need them the most.

But [Jane] Wise notes that self-diagnosed people are unlikely to receive accommodations or funding — like disability benefits — from institutions that usually requires “proof” of these conditions.

Meanwhile, medical professionals and academics have warned against the dangers of people misdiagnosing themselves.

“The widespread popularization of disorders has made them virtual ‘floating signifiers’ for all manner of troublesome, frustrating, and disappointing experiences, from poor performance at work or school to feelings of being beleaguered and overwhelmed by all one has to do,” wrote sociologist Joseph E. Davis for Psychology Today. “Often enough, it is fair to say, the everyday distress, role conflicts, and lifestyle issues that motivate the personal appropriation of these categories have little to do with a mental disorder.”