In contrast to other doctors who have worked so hard for so many years to obtain that degree, more people today believe “Doctor Google” than any other doctor. Today, every problem has an answer that is only a search away. Modern technology makes it easy to find solutions to any issue. More than 200 mental illnesses are currently recognized, including schizophrenia, PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depression. If you search online for information, you run the risk of self-diagnosing your mental health condition and misdiagnosing it more often.
There are 10,000 diseases in the world and cures for only 500 of them. It will not be difficult for their symptoms to overlap and lead to an incorrect diagnosis. Searching online can worsen the situation, and the actual problem may remain undiagnosed. Hence, the message is not to self-diagnose. Here’s why.
What is self-diagnosis?
Diagnosis is the process of identifying and determining the nature of a disease or disorder by its signs and symptoms, using assessment techniques (e.g., tests and examinations) and other available evidence. Self-diagnosis, on the other hand, is the process of diagnosing or identifying a medical condition in oneself. Googling the symptoms is the easiest way to figure out if anyone has a condition. It leads to the trivialization of serious illnesses.
It is more convenient to use the internet than to see a physician. Studies show that the number of people who diagnose themselves on the internet is close to 50%.
Are symptom checkers reliable and accurate?
Generic symptom checkers rely on self-reporting. They can be helpful to rule out unusual symptoms, but they frequently misjudge the required level of care and sometimes even offer bad advice.
A research project carried out by MGM Medical College’s community medicine students. It was discovered that 75% of the general public and 72% of patients had looked up symptoms online before visiting doctors, but that just 39% of the population and 40% of patients had done so with consequences from self-diagnosing themselves and even took medicines.
Self-Diagnosis Risks: 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Do It
1. Unreliable source
Not everything you Google is true. The source through which you read about mental or physical issues might not always be reliable. The information on the internet may conflict with real-world information. Some participants in a Rutgers-New Brunswick study read articles that disagreed about the advantages of eating whole grains, while the other group read articles that agreed. According to studies and scientists, people who read contradictory online health advice were left confused and lacking in faith. They may find it challenging to make wise decisions regarding their health because of this.
2. Unnecessary worry and panic
Self-diagnosing can easily lead to unnecessary worry and panic. This might worsen the condition by adding additional stress and anxiety. Worrying that grows out of control is also harmful to mental health. Managing your physical and mental health depends on knowing what you are up against. A specific treatment plan should be created by a doctor after conducting diagnostic tests.
3. Incorrect Diagnosis
Diagnosis cannot be done just by going through the internet. There are 10,000 diseases, and the chances of their symptoms overlapping are high. For instance, there are numerous causes for experiencing stress, but without a clinical diagnosis, people frequently mistake it for depression. Such a diagnosis can be made by trained professionals based on the signs and symptoms that an individual exhibits, which can vary from person to person.
4. Wrong treatment or no treatment
An incorrect diagnosis can lead to the wrong treatment or no treatment at all. 35% of people who looked up their own or another person’s medical condition online did not seek a diagnosis from a doctor. Additionally, 18% sought professional advice when they disagreed with their self-diagnosis. (Pew Research) Hence, it’s best to consult a medical professional.
5. Lack of quality
Not every website or symptom checker provides accurate information. In a review of 23 websites conducted by Harvard Medical School, only one-third offered the correct diagnosis as the initial treatment. In the first three options, the correct diagnosis was only listed in half of the health tool apps. Unreliable sources or incorrect information create conflicting results.
How to Stop Self-Diagnosis
Consult a professional
When something seems off, it is always advised to talk to a professional. They can assist in the resolution of problems. Don’t wait to seek help from a professional if you believe you may have a mental health issue. A proper diagnosis will allow you to start feeling better right away.
Understand your normal
Learn about your typical behavior so that you can recognize when something is off and requires your attention. Realize that pretty much everything about you is involved in establishing your baseline. When symptoms first appear, mood, energy levels, and sleep patterns can all change.
Set a time limit
You should limit the time you invest in Googling the symptoms. Avoid going through unreliable sources and try self-diagnosing yourself. Try to shorten the time you spend on the internet.
Use a positive distraction
When you find yourself googling or feel like doing so, distract yourself by involving yourself in other activities. For example, listening to music, reading a book, or doing anything else that you enjoy.
Be honest with yourself
Do not make a list of symptoms to make a diagnosis of your choice. Be honest about your problems. But do not ignore the facts and reach a conclusion; instead, reach out for professional help.
The risk of self-diagnosing yourself with any mental health condition is high but can also lead to self-awareness. It has both positive and negative effects. There are ways to control and break the habit of self-diagnosis, as it can lead to false information, the wrong diagnosis, incorrect treatment, or conflicting results.