School guidance counselor Melissa Millington first noticed the trend when more than one student at her Missouri high school claimed symptoms of the extremely rare dissociative identity disorder.

Then it was Tourette’s syndrome, with students who had never previously shown symptoms adopting ticks and barks in class. Now it’s students insisting they have autism spectrum disorder.

Go Ad-Free, Get Content, Go Premium Today - $1 Trial

“These students, they’re trying to find out who they are,” Millington told EdWeek. “Because that’s what you do in the teen years, you’re trying to figure out: Where do I fit in Society? Who am I going to be?”

The answers, Millington learned, are coming from TikTok influencers, and it’s serving as “their WebMD,” she said.

And Millington isn’t the only one to recognize the disturbing trend.

“I’m glad we’re talking about this because it’s so common,” Kenza Haddock, a licensed professional counselor supervisor in South Carolina, told WPDE.

Go Ad-Free, Get Content, Go Premium Today - $1 Trial

“With TikTok and other social media, someone can just very easily make a video and say ‘Hey, if you’re going through or if you’re experiencing these symptoms, that means you have ADHD,” she said. “’Or you have anxiety, or you have depression, or you’re bipolar.’”

A survey of 595 educators conducted by the EdWeek Research Center between Dec. 21 and Jan. 2 found 65% said their students either “sometimes” or “frequently” use social media to diagnose their own mental health.

About 68% use social media to diagnose mental health in others.

“Meanwhile, 55% of high school students who responded to a separate survey said they have used social media to diagnose their own mental health conditions at least once, including more than a quarter – 28% – who said they do it ‘sometimes’ and 10% who said they do it ‘all the time,’” EdWeek reports.

That survey involved 1,056 high schoolers interviewed between Feb. 9 and March 4.

Anna P. Monte Elementary School counselor Kristen Nye said she’s recently heard her Wilmington, Delaware 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders “say things like ‘I have anxiety’ or ‘I have depression.”

“The amount of stuff that they’re aware of is because of TikTok is insane,” she said.

Erin Collins, a counselor at Good Vibes Therapy Center in Myrtle Beach, told WPDE the increasing trend is problematic because much of the information on social media is misleading.

Recent research from the University of British Columbia found more than half of the 100 most popular TikTok videos on ADHD were not accurate.

“They want to diagnose themselves with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Trauma Disorders or Personality Disorders from social media,” she said. “I’ll point to criteria that does meet a certain diagnosis, but there’s so much overlap when it comes to diagnosing a (mental disorder) that it’s imperative for a professional to … give you that diagnosis than to actually do it yourself.”

Some mental health professionals have noted influencers have a financial incentive to promote specific treatments or resources, while others have pointed to the complications the trend creates for identifying the real issues with struggling students.

“Oh let me tell you, it takes several sessions to help someone unlearn a self-diagnosis that they have given themselves,” Haddock said. “Because they have already done research by the time they come to us…and we have to teach them ‘Hey no this is not what you have, this is what’s going on with you.'”

Experts believe the issue is fueled in part by an increase in youth mental health issues following government imposed lockdowns during the pandemic, and exacerbated by an obsession with social media.

The trend toward self-diagnosing mental health through TiKTok also follows a years-long effort to ban the Chinese-owned app in the United States over concerns about its parent company’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party. That effort continues in Congress, where the House approved a Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act last month, the New York Post reports.

Attorneys General of at least 45 states and the District of Columbia are also suing TikTok over claims the company uses deceptive and unfair business practices to addict children, contributing to the ongoing youth mental health crisis.

“There is a wealth of peer-reviewed research showing social media platforms, especially image- and video-based platforms like TikTok, are playing a substantial role in harming youth mental health. For example, in February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released findings demonstrating a startling increase in challenges to youth mental health, youth experiences of violence, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors among teenagers, especially teenage girls,” Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey wrote in a news release.

“This includes a finding that nearly one-third of teenage girls seriously considered suicide in 2021, a nearly 60% increase from a decade prior. Other peer-reviewed research shows that increased teen social media use is a significant driver of this crisis.”