Self-diagnosis in the Digital Age — How It May Impact Your Health
There is no doubt that the invention of the internet has made it easier to find information than ever before. However, the problem is that anyone can make a website and write whatever they want online. This is a significant problem when people try to self-diagnose a medical issue by reading the medical information that is shared by influencers and websites found from a quick Google search. While there is plenty of factual data, it is far too simple to get confused and actually cause yourself more harm than you would by making an appointment with your doctor.
Today, we will talk a bit about the surge of self-diagnoses in the digital age and why Googling your symptoms could negatively impact your physical and mental health.
Why Are So Many People Self-diagnosing?
These days, more people are concerned about their health than in the past, and there are many reasons for this negative trend. Among them is the fact that COVID-19 has changed how we look at our health, and many people fear getting the virus or experiencing other possible side effects as a result of the pandemic.
In essence, many people are experiencing health anxiety. This is a non-diagnosable condition where we constantly believe that we are ill or we become obsessed with the idea of feeling sick. In the past, the condition has been known as hypochondria. On the one hand, it is okay to be cautious of your health, especially with the pandemic still very much a reality. We need to care for our bodies and minds, but the problem is that many people run to the internet. While there, they Google their symptoms or check websites like WebMD to “verify” that they have a serious medical condition.
The popularity of social media is also leading many young people to search for medical advice on apps like TikTok. While they are there, they either see an influencer share their self-diagnoses, or they learn about new conditions from influencers and think they may have the same issue. Parents must ensure that their kids have a pediatrician or therapist whom they can speak to if they feel they are ill so they can get a real answer from a professional.
You Could Get Inaccurate Information
So, how could self-diagnosing negatively impact your health? Most important is the fact that you could be getting inaccurate information. The symptoms and diagnoses that you find online may not necessarily be wrong, but it is typically for the strongest or most severe cases, and the website doesn’t always break it down into every possible variation. The issue is often with how the symptoms and data are presented.
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This is because websites are often based on keywords and algorithms in hopes of getting the most clicks. So, the website will pack as many keywords/symptoms as possible onto the page, and they are often the most severe symptoms. The problem is that many ailments can have the same symptoms. For instance, headaches are a common side effect of both stroke and excess stress. If you Google “strong headaches” and see that the culprit is anxiety, then you may try different remedies than you would need in order to avoid/remedy a stroke. If, instead, you went to a doctor, they could ask you the appropriate questions to make a better determination of your ailment.
Many people also go online to self-diagnose mental health issues and psychological syndromes. The problem there is that many diseases can masquerade as another. There are many medical mimics in existence. For instance, the symptoms of epilepsy may lead many to believe that they have a mood or psychiatric disorder. People who have traumatic brain injuries are often misdiagnosed with neurological disorders.
Needless to say, it is almost impossible for users to differentiate and learn the nuances of medical mimics, so it is best to go to a professional doctor who can run the necessary tests.
You Cause Yourself Unnecessary Stress and Pain
The other major issue is that when you spend days searching hundreds of websites to find your specific condition, you could cause yourself a lot of unnecessary worries that you could eliminate by going to the doctor. By sitting around anxious, you could actually cause yourself additional harm. The effects of stress on the body include muscle tension, chest pain, and headaches that could actually make your overall health worse.
You could also cause unnecessary financial strain. Medication is expensive, and if you are buying and taking the wrong medicine, then not only will you never get better, but you could waste a lot of money in the process. Financial stress is a common issue, and if left untreated, it could result in physical ailments like heart disease, migraines, and sleep problems.
Also, if you get medication for a medical issue that you incorrectly believe you have, then it can also cause you unnecessary harm. In many cases, the people that don’t visit doctors also don’t want to go to an official pharmacy, so they may get their drugs through unofficial or illegal means. You never know what you are getting in that situation. In addition to potentially getting the wrong drugs, you could get a deadly cocktail that could lead to more serious medical emergencies down the line. Then, once you do visit the doctor, you could be prescribed the proper information and be out of money and unable to afford what you need.
Sometimes, all you need to get past your fear of getting an official checkup is to find a doctor that you trust. Read reviews online, get referrals, or bring someone with you that you trust that can help you to gauge the dependability of the doctor. Once you find a doctor who you know has your best interest at heart, you will feel more comfortable going to them. Keep in mind that you can change doctors at any time.
As you can see, there is great danger in self-diagnosing during the digital age. Keep this advice in mind and go to a professional the next time you are feeling ill.
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Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Portland area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.
NOTE: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Nannocare. Nannocare is not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with the author of this article, or any of its subsidiaries or its affiliates.