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The Dangers of Self-Diagnosis

Illustration for article titled The Dangers of Self-Diagnosis

When you’re not feeling well, are you more likely to call the doctor’s office and set up an appointment or do a quick online search of your symptoms and try to self-diagnose what you have? The internet is a great tool in many ways, but it was never intended to be an alternative to visiting the doctor when you become sick or injured.

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What if you want to get a general idea of what your symptoms might be (before you call your doctor)? According to a Pew research poll, 35% of Americans go online to figure out their medical condition or that of someone else. While 41% said that their doctor confirmed the self-diagnosis, 35% never visited a doctor for a professional diagnosis, and 18% of self-diagnosers who did see their doctor found out their self-diagnosis (via the internet) was wrong. In general, self-diagnosing is can be dangerous and end up delaying an accurate diagnosis as well as treatment. According to Dan Santola, Delayed Medical Diagnosis Lawyer, a delay in care can worsen a condition and may even result in death.

Is Any Amount of Self-Diagnosis Good?

Many doctors will warn their patients to take any information that they read on the internet with a “grain of salt”. There’s an abundance of accurate and inaccurate information on the web and an individual with a small headache could spend hours searching, reading, and then coming to a conclusion that he or she has a brain tumor. While he or she very well could have a brain tumor, he or she would be better off keeping track of his or her symptoms and taking some notes or write down some questions based off of his or her internet search. If the symptoms fail to subside, call the doctor, and take the list of questions or concerns to the doctor. A headache can indicate many things, but often times, self-diagnosers will find the worst possible outcome and go with that.

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Are There Any Trusted Sites?

Remember, professional medical opinions should never be replaced by a quick internet search. If there’s an urgency to search the web about mental or physical health concerns, a search needs to be conducted wisely and always, with a little skepticism. While there are no “tried and true” sites, better medically supported websites include the CDC, National Institutes of Health, The American Academy of Family Physicians, and major hospital and university websites. These sites have easy-to-understand information and are fact based rather than filled with “experiences” as found on forums and personal blogs.

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Who Should Avoid Searching the Web?

In theory, when it comes to a medical diagnosis, everyone should avoid searching the internet, but individuals who suffer from somatic symptom disorder (formerly known as hypochondria) steer clear of Dr. Google. When someone has a somatic symptom disorder, he or she becomes preoccupied with their symptoms and spend a great amount time on symptoms and other health concerns. Many individuals with somatic symptom disorder are unaware that they have the disorder and truly believe that they have multiple medical issues. It can be treated through cognitive behavioral therapy, but it’s even more important to have a trusting relationship with a doctor, face-to-face.

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But My Friend Says…

Friends are great for a lot of things, but unless they are medical professionals, they should not be offering medical advice. You should never self-diagnose your symptoms based off of a friend’s personal experience. Again, you can take notes or write down questions that you can ask your doctor at an appointment, but you should never skip going to the doctor because your friend’s similar symptoms turned out to be nothing serious.

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