Sometimes, when reviewing a question, answering this question can be a little difficult, especially when the question being reviewed could be seen both ways.


Let's take the recent question titled Is there a name for a phobia of certain textures?

It starts with

I have a friend with the following undiagnosed condition....

and the post then ends with

Is this a known phenomenon with a name one can look up? I don't know if it counts as a phobia exactly but maybe it does.

My judgement

I voted to close this question as "personal advice" because to me this is looking for a diagnosis.


JohnP♦ commented saying

@ChrisRogers - I am not so sure that the question is personalized advice. The poster gives a background, but simply asks "Is this a known phenomenon or phobia I can look up?" - Substitute ducks for textures, and the descriptions, and the answer would be Anatidaephobia.

Whilst I respect his opinion, this now muddies the waters a little for me and I need this cleared up.

Let's go through my thinking on why I judged it to be a diagnosis request which forms part of my re-evaluation.


The start and ending I pasted above gives you the basis of my original judgement because many people I know, and I have to include myself in this for research purposes, jump straight onto Google and look up possibilities as to what could be wrong with them. This can be before going to a doctor, or it could be whilst diagnostic tests are being carried out.

Whilst this can be beneficial to a degree on both sides, it can also be detrimental to the wellbeing of the patient.

Possible benefits

  1. If the patient feels that an incorrect diagnosis has been given, the patient can discuss the reasons with the doctor to either have the diagnosis checked (it's good for the doctor to evaluate or re-evaluate the diagnosis for CPD) or have their concerns alleviated.

  2. The patient can understand a diagnosis better when the doctor finally does have a definitive diagnosis

Possible detrimental effects

  1. Whilst a definitive diagnosis has not be found, the patient could worry about the more serious possible diagnoses to the detriment of their mental health as well as their physical health through psychosomatic problems arising from this.

  2. Once a definitive diagnosis has been made, the patient could be so transfixed on a particular diagnosis they have determined that "there could be no possible way that the official diagnosis is correct".

What is the result of re-evaluation?

I am still of the opinion that the question should be closed as a diagnosis request because it may or may not be detrimental to the OP.

The point I am making here, which I am putting to the challenge here is that we cannot make a firm decision whether the question is safe for the OP to ask or not. Are they looking for a firm diagnosis or are they looking for possibilities which they could take to the doctor or therapist in order to discuss these possibilities?

For this reason, and for the fact that I wish to put my decision to the challenge is

Should we let the question stay open and be answered or should we close it for the sake if safety for not only the OP, but for future visitors to the question?

This is an attempt to try and sort this out as there is a similar discussion on Psychology.SE Meta so it is not just a problem here.

I know we have the disclaimer on the page, but this is not visible on the android or iOS app for this site, so...

On top of this, if we leave it open should we have a visible flag (like the 'protected' flag) attached to warn answerers and future visitors that official diagnoses must not be given or taken from any answers given?

  • 2
    Thank you for raising this question. It definitely straddles the line. The other consideration is if it fits with the future/evolving scope of the site, which I admit I did not consider at the time.
    – JohnP
    Oct 11, 2018 at 15:07
  • 2
    I think you're over analyzing. They asked if a name existed for a phobia they described. That's not asking for a diagnosis, and answering it isn't offering one. I don't think we should be so strict that "What's this called?" questions get closed as requests for advice.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Oct 11, 2018 at 15:26
  • 1
    It starts to feel as if we might need to differentiate our definitions for "personal advice" and "diagnosis". – For that Q I wanted to wait – and then perhaps answer it – after OP earned his Informed badge and edited the Q. That edit I waited for would ideally include more signs of effort for research and maybe a clarification that distances (I have…) background from desire to learn. Neither badge nor edit followed. – Core of the Q: Wanting to know the proper term seems squarely on-topic to me and not in any way more dangerous than using a dictionary. Oct 11, 2018 at 19:55


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