While some physical health trends on TikTok include things like rice water hair, nature’s cereal and the famous 12-3-30 workout, the viral social media app is also home to a formidable amount of mental health content.
People with nearly any mental health condition can find other users on the site who describe their symptoms, self-described “TikTok therapists” who tout advice, or influencers who swear by certain trends like the “lucky girl syndrome.”
However, given that TikTok mental health content is often full of misinformation, it’s important to know how to parse through the things that are inaccurate or potentially harmful.
Below are the top nine mental health trends making the rounds on TikTok and whether they’re based on real evidence or spread misinformation.
1. Letting intrusive thoughts win
TikTok has a tendency of making taboo topics less taboo — and that’s the case for a new trend around so-called “intrusive thoughts.”
Users are uploading videos dubbed “letting the intrusive thoughts win” in which they take action on an impulse — whether shattering ice over an open car window or pressing the alarm button in a hotel elevator.
Still, it appears TikTokers are conflating intrusive thoughts with impulsive thoughts, when the term “intrusive thoughts” is typically linked to certain mental health conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
In those cases, intrusive thoughts are persistent, unwanted anxiety-driving obsessions that people often seek to perform a compulsive behavior or ritual to rid them, according to Mayo Clinic. They often cause distress, require therapy or treatment and are not meant to be conflated with impulsive urges to get a tattoo suddenly or cut your bangs yourself, for example.
2. “Stupid mental health”
At the end of 2021, TikToker Nina Laevski posted a video that showed her reluctantly stepping outside her door in the winter and going on a walk, accompanied by text reading, “Going on a stupid walk for my stupid mental health.”
The video was a smash, garnering nearly 9 million views and nearly 1 million likes.
Since then, others have joined in on the trend, showing how they force themselves to go on daily walks or do yoga because they know it’ll be good for them in the long run.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be easy at the moment, but it’s good to have a laugh about it anyway.
3. POV: This is what it’s like…
TikTok has become famous for being the social media platform that in many ways is the most honest.
Unlike Instagram, which is often filled with happy facades and images of vacations, young people on TikTok tend to be a bit more straightforward about their personal struggles and mental health issues.
The POV — or point-of-view — type of video is hugely popular. Many POV videos are humorous, but some are raw, honest depictions of what life is like for people with certain mental health or physical health conditions.
4. The self-diagnosing phenomenon
While POV videos can be helpful in many ways, such as helping people struggling with mental health issues not feel alone or isolated, they can also fuel a significant amount of misinformation.
According to a recent study, nearly 84% of mental health videos on TikTok are misleading. Recently, experts have been raising the alarm on the vast amount of videos that describe the symptoms of certain mental health disorders and have been leading to an uptick of self-diagnoses.
Dissociative identity disorder, OCD, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD) are all examples of conditions that are commonly discussed on TikTok.
However, experts have noted this can be a harmful activity. Many of these conditions are rare and can only be diagnosed by a certified healthcare professional. Still, TikTok can convince people that they have a disorder when in reality they don’t.
5. Glow-up plans
“Glow-up” refers to a physical, spiritual and mental positive transformation that results in someone becoming the best version of themselves.
At the start of 2023, plenty of TikTokers were sharing their step-by-step plans on how they would glow-up.
Many of these include healthy daily rituals that involve positive affirmations, journaling, self-care, exercise and therapy.
6. Hot girl walk
The “hot girl walk” trend may sound more complicated than it is.
The trend took off in 2021, as women on TikTok touted the mental health and physical benefits of doing a daily walk.
Those mental health and physical health benefits, in some way, make you “hot.” The term is meant to give a positive spin to following a daily mental health routine.
7. “Lucky girl syndrome”
Positive affirmations, positive talk and “manifesting” have all been trending TikTok conversations for years now. Manifesting, for example, is essentially the idea that if you believe your dreams or goals will happen, they will with time.
“Lucky girl syndrome” is a new trend that emerged in 2023 and is similar in many ways to its predecessors. The idea, in short, is that positive thinking can make way for positive results. If you believe you’re lucky, for example, lucky things begin to happen.
Since the term has caught on, countless people have posted videos claiming that lucky girl syndrome really works — and there’s even some people attempting to explain the neuroscience behind the phenomenon.
Several news organizations have picked up on the trend as well, posting articles that question the validity of lucky girl syndrome.
Some psychological experts noted, like in this piece in The Washington Post, that lucky girl syndrome can be helpful since it encourages positive thinking — which has been shown to be constructive for mental health and motivation — while being aware that lucky, magical occurrences may be closer to coincidence.
Others have noted that positive thinking may not always be enough to make changes; positive actions are in some ways more important.
Recently, TikTokers have been posting videos under the #mascara hashtag not to discuss makeup – but instead to discuss serious issues like suicide, trauma or sexual abuse while evading TikTok’s censorship filters.
Code words like #mascara are often used on TikTok to avoid the platform’s ban on certain words.
Originally, the trend started out with mascara referring to one’s partner, but then evolved into a code word for darker topics like trauma and abuse. Since then, mental health experts have become more concerned that the trend could be triggering, dismissive and re-traumatizing to certain viewers.
9. Digital detox
More and more people are touting the benefits of a “digital detox,” or finding various ways to decrease the amount of time on screens, whether it’s your phone, television, iPad or laptop.
TikTokers provide various steps on how to do it, whether it means charging your phone in a separate room, putting time limits on apps or even taking full two-week breaks from your phone. Many TikTokers trying digital detoxes say benefits include lowered anxiety, more productivity and better sleep.
Good news for TikTok – this is actually something that’s backed by science. Research has shown that taking a break from digital devices and the internet can improve focus and sleep, according to the Cleveland Clinic.