Why It’s Bad to Google Your Symptoms
Have you ever had a tickle in your throat or a headache and immediately turned to google? This habit of googling your symptoms is a common one and can be bad for you.
Symptoms can overlap and it takes years of medical training to know which is the right diagnosis for you. Here are a few reasons why it’s bad to google your symptoms.
Getting the wrong diagnosis
Many people with health anxiety turn to the internet for answers about their symptoms. However, the information they find online often leads them to worst case scenarios and can trigger more stress and anxiety. This is especially true for mental health conditions, as they don’t always have clear symptoms that can be easily compared to others.
For example, one woman who went online to look up her fatigue found out that it could be a sign of a brain tumor. This caused her to worry a lot about the disease, which only made her symptoms worse. Fortunately, the doctor told her that it was nothing serious. However, this kind of misdiagnosis can cost patients and the healthcare industry a lot of money in unnecessary medical tests and treatments. It can also lead to anxiety and depression in some cases. This is why it’s best to leave diagnosis to professionals.
Worrying about the wrong diagnosis
It’s great that people from all over the world can share their experiences on the internet and that anyone can post information, but this doesn’t always mean that the advice you get is accurate. The fact that there is no need to have any kind of medical training to give health advice online can lead to a lot of misinformation being spread.
When you google your symptoms you’re also often bombarded with worst-case scenarios, which can add to your anxiety. For example, a runny nose might be diagnosed as lung cancer or COVID but it could actually just be the result of higher pollen counts.
This is known as cyberchondria and it can be very harmful to your mental health. It’s particularly dangerous for someone who already struggles with hypochondria or health anxiety as it can exacerbate their condition and make them feel worried about things that they don’t even have. This can cause them to stop seeing a doctor or ignore their symptoms, which could be dangerous.
Getting the wrong treatment
It’s a real phenomenon called cyberchondria, and it causes people to compulsively search online for information about their symptoms. This can lead to a vicious cycle of anxiety and panic that results in trips to the emergency room or doctors’ offices for unnecessary tests and treatments. It also costs patients and healthcare companies billions of dollars every year.
Health professionals agree that it’s best to leave medical diagnosis to a trained professional. But that’s not always easy, especially if you feel like your GP isn’t taking your symptoms seriously or is giving you the wrong diagnosis.
Plus, it’s important to remember that the internet isn’t always accurate. Anyone can post anything on the internet, including unreliable and incorrect medical information. It’s even possible to get a false positive result from a website that offers symptom checkers, which are designed to take your symptoms and suggest a list of potential causes. That’s why it’s important to only use trusted sites like Mayo Clinic and the CDC.
Getting the wrong medication
We’ve all seen a symptom and immediately run to google it. This symptom-checking can quickly get out of hand and lead to a cycle of anxiety and self-diagnosis. Often, the information you find online is fueled by advertising and WhatsApp forwards, making it hard to separate fact from fiction. In some cases, googling your symptoms may actually be beneficial but it is important to be sure that the source is verified.
Health professionals have long discouraged patients from searching their symptoms online, saying that it can lead to unnecessary worry and strain on healthcare systems. While this stance may still be true in some cases, new research suggests that there are times when patients can gain useful insights from self-diagnosing online. This may include finding a better way to describe their symptoms to their doctor or finding out which medications might be most effective. On average, however, the correct diagnosis only appears in search results on page one about 34% of the time.