How many times have you noticed a weird symptom and immediately “Googled it”? Be honest! Once you hit that search bar and type in your symptoms there’s no turning back. The internet quickly sucks you down a habit hole of possible causes and conditions. Soon enough, you find yourself on page 5 of Google and you are convinced you have an incredibly rare and terrifying condition.
Instead of helping, Google has fueled your anxiety and caused more stress instead of comfort. If this sounds familiar- know that you are not alone! Many people turn to ‘Dr. Google’ because it’s so tempting just to take a quick look. But is this habit of ‘Googling’ your symptoms really helping or feeding into your worse nightmare?
Be Skeptical Of Online Research
The answer, as you might have guessed, is that it’s not helpful to use Google in place of a qualified medical professional for several different reasons. First and foremost, internet searches can be misleading, not only in the sense of accuracy but in that these searches can lead you down all types of terrifying paths.
In some cases, the results we receive tell us that our symptoms don’t require medical attention. For this reason, people will skip the doctor’s visit, and more serious problems can occur down the road. Yet, in most cases, the results we get from Google searches tend to be more alarming than what is actually going on inside of our bodies. More often than not, the symptoms people search for are often tied to a common and curable ailment.
‘Dr. Google” Can Fuel Anxiety
‘Dr. Google’ does not actually have a medical degree which can increase your chances of misdiagnosis or mistaking something major for something minor. Your attempts to self-diagnose to calm you down can have the opposite effect and can cause you to panic and overthink everything. Once one anxious thought sneaks in, it’s easy to go into a downward spiral of “what ifs” that can consume you.
Anytime your anxiety heightens, you expose your body to higher levels of cortisol. This increase in stress often leads to physical reactions that resemble some of the symptoms displayed in your online searches. If it persists, the stress itself can eventually create a reason and need for medical attention.
Understandably, we often try to research our ailments in hopes that what we are experiencing is normal. One moment we’re on a quest for peace; the next thing we know, we’re convinced that we have a life-threatening disease. And those who continue to worry about a condition they’ve convinced themselves that they have may develop health anxiety.
Health Anxiety (Hypochondria) Is Real
Health anxiety occurs when one becomes obsessed over the thought of having a serious but undiagnosed condition. This anxiety can lead to the need for excessive reassurance from doctors, often involving unnecessary, painstaking tests to feel reassured.
That said, looking up health information isn’t always the worst thing someone could do. If we’re lucky, a symptom search steers us in the right direction. The problem is this stroke of luck comes at the risk of us landing on a more serious concern, creating a cause for alarm when there may not be one.
The bottom line is that when you experience questionable symptoms that concern you, it’s best to contact a doctor. Do not avoid going if you’re afraid of hearing bad news. The sooner you know something, one way or the other, you can ease your symptoms and anxiety. Either (or both) of these will only get worse the more you question or worry about what you don’t know.
It’s okay to be nervous when symptoms show up but remember you’ll get the most accurate diagnosis from someone trained to give one. Only from that point can you take the best steps to address your health concerns. Avoid taking matters into your own hands and relying on an online resource for diagnosis. When you stop ‘Googling’ your symptoms, your physical and mental health will thank you for it.