Why you shouldn’t Google your symptoms

Anyone who has ever Googled their symptoms will know the self-diagnosis spiral – first you have a sniffle, then a cough, and now Google tells you it’s a rare form of cancer with a side of lupus.

The main reason to stop Googling your symptoms is your own mental health – visiting Doctor Google too often could turn you into a hypochondriac. But apart from not scaring yourself silly, there are some other practical reasons to avoid typing in your symptoms.

False diagnosis
There have been reported cases of patients experiencing a single symptom, Googling it, convincing themselves they have a particular condition and then causing themselves to experience other symptoms of the condition psychosomatically (where through sheer belief the brain causes you to physically experience symptoms caused by no more than your own imagination). They really are experiencing these other symptoms, but they don’t have the disease, and this can lead to a very confusing situation for your doctor, and the possibility of misdiagnosis.

Misinformation
The internet is full of unreliable information. When anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection can get published, it can be difficult to sort the reliable sources from the hacks. Doctors rely on the latest peer-reviewed data to make their diagnosis of your condition, and they have enough background knowledge to sort the wheat from the chaff. While alternative medicine likely has something to teach western medicine, it’s a good idea to take that blog you read with a grain of salt and pair the two to get the best result, rather than relying solely on moon-charged crystals to heal your newly diagnosed diabetes.

Too much information
Doctors are trained to put together your symptoms, medical history and the rarity of a disease to come up with a far more accurate diagnosis than you could ever hope to achieve on your own. There is a reason it takes six years (minimum) of study to become a doctor, and that’s without specialising. The sheer volume of information you would have to read through, comprehend and connect in order to properly diagnose yourself is so great that you are likely to miss something vital, which could put your health in danger.

While Google can be an invaluable resource for trying to diagnose a health issue, it’s still best make an appointment with a trained medical professional when you have a genuine health concern.

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