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Experts troubled by TikTok trend that can have teens believing they have serious mental disorders

MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — A new trend on TikTok could lead some teens to believe they have a serious mental disorder, according to some experts.

The app, which has become a community for users to connect and for teens to show off dance moves and share other fun videos, has recently had some trending videos of young people claiming to have a borderline personality, bipolar or dissociative identity disorder, which is spreading like wildfire on the platform.

Posts with the hashtags, “dissociative identity disorder” and “borderline personality disorder” have been viewed hundreds of millions of times. And some of those videos list possible signs to look out for and encourage viewers to self-evaluate.

Samantha Fridley, 18, said these videos influenced her to believe that she was suffering from a mental disorder.

“I remember seeing these videos on my ‘For You’ page of people saying, like, ‘These are signs that you have this disorder,’ bipolar or borderline and all these other weird disorders that I’ve never even heard of before,” Fridley told GMA. “My mind would be like, ‘Maybe I don’t have just depression and anxiety, maybe I have something else.'”

“After working with a therapist for a long time, I started realizing that I don’t have borderline personality, I don’t have disassociated identity, I don’t have bipolar. I just have what I’ve always had, which is depression and anxiety,” she added.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, borderline personality disorder is extremely rare — only 1.4% of the U.S. adult population is estimated to have this condition and it is rarely diagnosed in adolescents.

Mental health professionals say these videos may pose an alarming risk to a potentially vulnerable population.

“If you spend 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes viewing people talk about these disorders over and over again, that can make it seem like these conditions are a lot more prevalent than they actually are in the world,” said psychologist Ethan Kross, the author of Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It.

To help teens on TikTok, experts are urging parents to maintain an open line of communication with their kids about mental health.

“Take the time to empathetically hear them out,” Kross said. “How intense are these symptoms? How long are they lasting? Does it seem like they’re interfering with your child’s ability to live the life that they want to live? Again, if the answer to those questions is yes, that’s a cue to then take the next steps to get a formal diagnosis.”

In a statement to ABC News, TikTok said, “We care deeply about the well-being of our community, which is why we continue to invest in digital literacy education aimed at helping people evaluate and understand content they engage with online. We strongly encourage individuals to seek professional medical advice if they are in need of support.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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