‘Legging legs’ and self-diagnosis: How social media trends are neglecting mental health needs

TikTok has recently banned the viral 2024 trend of ‘legging legs’, which implies that only certain body types are acceptable when wearing leggings and other body types should not be seen in them. Bethany Jones investigates the impacts of social media on mental health and why this is an issue.

Paris Charmain, a 21-year-old from Essex, who promotes mental health awareness, lifestyle, and fashion on her Instagram and TikTok accounts has suffered with her mental health over the past decade. This mainly includes anxiety, depression, and body image. She felt as if people, including her friends, didn’t fully understand her struggles as they hadn’t experienced it for themselves and therefore left her feeling as if she couldn’t go out and do the thing that she loved or socialise. To this day, she is trying to control it.

When speaking about social media, Paris said: “Social media can be damaging in so many different ways. We post what we want people to see. You could be struggling so much but only be posting the good parts.

“I do think that unrealistic standards have an impact, especially as a woman myself, I always compare myself to other females on social media, but we all forget how easily things can be filtered and edited.

“I would personally tell everyone to only follow people that bring a positive impact in your life, try to have only nice stuff in your feed and don’t always be on social media.”

Paris is one of many people who use social media as part of their everyday routine. Pew Research conducted a survey in 2023 which found that 78% of adults aged 18-29 use Instagram, 62% use TikTok and 67% use Facebook, with a larger proportion of these users being female.

A bar graph showing the percentage of 18 to 29-year-olds who use different platforms according to Pew Research

A bar graph showing the percentage of women compared to men who use different platforms according to Pew Research.

Saying this, Dan Graber from Sugarcreek, Ohio, has also experienced negative impacts when dealing with social media. He said: “I moved 750 miles away from home, so most of my interactions were online and I was spending a lot of time on social media. Enough that I was losing social skills. I was depressed because it seemed that everyone had a perfect life, and I didn’t.

“Back in 2012, I did a social media fast and broke my addiction of spending 40-60 hours a week on social media. Since then, I have attempted multiple times to quit all social media, but I am so used to it, but it wastes my time and makes me jealous of others. I get anxious when I get too much time on social media yet get overanxious when I don’t get social media time. It’s a no-win situation.”

“Everyone has their best face on social media. The problems are generally whitewashed. Hearing about mental health on there without any understanding is highly counterproductive.”

Media Nations UK reported that in March 2023, 5.2 million 15-24-year-olds visited TikTok, spending an average of 58 minutes per day. While this platform showcases many entertaining videos, there is also a darker side.

Viral videos such as ‘legging legs’, diet culture and self-diagnosing can contribute to the many mental health issues that people suffer from all around the world today. Some people may choose to see the positives in these. Paris Charmain added: “What I eat in a day videos actually encourage me to eat more as I’ve struggled with eating disorders before, so this has really helped me personally.”

Certain leg types are considered to be “better suited” to wearing leggings in this banned TikTok trend.

For others, seeing the constant feed of mental health symptoms or unrealistic body standards can appear as harmful and misleading. The Mental Health Foundation state that mixed anxiety and depression is Britain’s most common mental disorder, with 7.8% of people meeting the diagnosis criteria. They also say that four to ten percent of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime. TikTok, along with other platforms, such as Instagram display general and stereotypical symptoms of these disorders, leading to people potentially misdiagnosing themselves.


Dr. Aneesa Shariff, consultant clinical psychologist, said: “This is what really concerns me these days. I think it’s great that people are talking more about mental health issues and sharing their own personal issues to destigmatise it, but it really becomes concerning when people who are not qualified mental health professionals start to make informational videos, taking what they’ve personally experienced and making it as if those are facts and everyone will experience those things if they’ve got a condition or depression.

“Sometimes it goes really against what we do know to be true as mental health professionals, but the problem being that somebody who has a very small voice on social media but is qualified to speak about those things is not going to have the impact that somebody who is an influencer with thousands of followers but no mental health qualifications.”

Shops have dedicated sections to wellbeing to support people.

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is another condition that is often viewed on TikTok, sometimes being generalised under being unable to concentrate, leading to people misinterpreting the diagnosis. ADHD UK estimated that 140,000 20-24-year-olds are likely to have ADHD, based on the Office of National Statistics population estimate in 2022 and ADHD incidence rate.

Dr. Aneesa added: “One thing that we’re seeing more of in our practice is people who are seeing on TikTok about ADHD symptoms are coming in for assessments, already convinced that they have ADHD because they’ve seen a TikTok about it and have committed themselves to the idea that they have a certain diagnosis.

A graph to show the estimated number of people with ADHD by age group, conducted by ADHD UK.

“The diagnosis involves a huge process of collecting information, not just ticking off four or five symptoms. I think the best way influencers and non-mental health professionals can use their voice responsibly is to be clear that they are making content based on their personal experience, as well as to encourage their followers to seek out proper mental health support from an appropriately qualified professional.”

For mental health support please reach out to a mental health organisation so that you don’t suffer alone.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Looking for Something?