Cyberchondria: The Dangers Of Self-Diagnosis

Jazmine Bahr · Feb 06 2016

The majority of us have fallen down the rabbit hole of self-diagnosing through Web M.D. Cyberchondria – the research and diagnosis of oneself, is becoming an increasingly common practice with the access of information at our fingertips. But this can be a dangerous practice.

First of all, after plugging in your symptoms it can easily lead to serious misdiagnoses.

Headache? Brain Tumor.
Sore Throat? Throat Cancer.
Mood Swings? Bipolar Disorder.

Secondly, this kind of misinformed diagnoses can lead to a rise in fear and anxiety, which in turn can have serious adverse affects on our health. Anxiety increases the body’s cortisol levels. With increased cortisol levels the bodies immune functions are compromised. Optimal immune system health is required to help ward off infections and disease; it’s foolish to do anything which can compromise the body’s ability to fight disease in the first place.

In addition, the prospect of a serious medical problem can cause some “to bury their hands in the sand.” Following the process of self-diagnosis, some may fear going to the doctor because they don’t want to find out if they are in fact correct. This is a huge concern. If the diagnosis is indeed correct, your decision to put it on the back burner could have major consequences. The sooner you find out the truth and do something about it the better you will be.

Furthermore, it’s easy to minimize the symptoms you are feeling in order to avoid dealing with the reality. For example, you may dismiss persistent body aches as just one of the symptoms of overwork or aging. On the other hand, your family physician may order an EKG and discover that you are suffering from coronary artery disease. So don’t ignore or minimize your symptoms but seek proper professional advice.

Another reason to avoid playing ‘doctor’ is simply the fact that many conditions present themselves as something else. For example, it is common for many conditions to mimic psychiatric issues. Hypothyroidism/hyperthyroidism often manifest as depression/mania. While heart conditions and brain tumors appear as other mental disorders. Without proper examination you could be missing something that requires serious medical attention.

True, it can be embarrassing to speak to someone about conditions we feel are “weird” or “gross.” I assure you, such things do not put off health professionals or they would have chosen a different profession. Finding a doctor you can trust and to whom you can express your concerns and difference of opinion is extremely important. In fact, if you don’t trust and respect your family practitioner you need to look for another.

Unfortunately, the shortage of General Practitioners makes it very difficult to find a family doctor. Consequently, increasing numbers of people are opting for the walk-in clinic approach to health care. But most walk-in clinics seem so impersonal, especially when they encourage the patient to keep their concerns “to one problem at a time due to our high volume.” Such a message doesn’t exactly scream, “I care about you.” Perhaps, this is one reason why increasing numbers of people are turning to the Internet for information.

But don’t give up. Let me encourage you to persevere in your search for your own practitioner, someone with whom you click and is acquainted with your medical history. One word of advice: do so before you have a serious medical emergency.

There are many designations of practitioners to choose from as well: Traditional M.D.s, Integrated Health MD, Naturopathic Doctors etc. Find one who fits your needs; someone you trust and, most importantly, someone who is dedicated to ensuring your optimal health.

Doing some research online may be helpful in narrowing down the possibilities. Most health professionals provide a resume of their medical training and provide helpful comments from their patients online.

When a medical problem arises seek the counsel of your health professional immediately. The mind is a fertile ground for speculation and most of us can’t help but get carried away. The possibilities consume our thoughts and we begin to live in fear. Be sure to book an appointment immediately, if there is cause for concern.

In closing, many of these websites we are using for self-diagnosis list worst-case scenarios to protect them from getting sued if it was a serious issue. They are covering their butts. So do yourself a favor and cover yours too by finding someone you trust.