The Real Dangers Of Online Symptom Checking


For many of us, it’s actually rather difficult to remember a life without the internet – especially Google.

No longer do we have break out a dusty encyclopedia or head to the library if we want to learn something, all we have to do is open up the browser on our smartphone, tablet or computer to find whatever we’re looking for within seconds.

In so many ways, this evolution in technology is wonderful because it brings us so much closer to things that we weren’t able to access before, but in other ways, it can also bring about some dangers if we’re not careful.

One of the most popular things for people to search for on Google is anything to do with symptoms they’re having. Now, I won’t lie, I’m no stranger to WebMd and other similar sites, but I’ve also learned to approach with caution and use common sense when it comes to my health.

There are a lot of dangers when it comes to online symptom checking, so before you start Googling your symptoms the next time you’re feeling a bit under the weather, understand that there’s nothing wrong with become more health-aware and learning new things, but also understand that there’s nothing better than actually going and seeking advice from a medical professional.

Evidence based health advice that you get from a good doctor is not comparable to anything you’ll get from strangers on the internet. There are many illnesses that have very similar symptoms, so just because someone else has those symptoms, doesn’t mean you have the same condition.

The dangers really exist when people take these forums too seriously and not seriously enough, and again, this is due to a large amount of information from different sources and different perspectives.

Some people who are prone to symptom checking are people who suffer with either a medical-related anxiety where they simultaneously are living in fear of being sick, but have convinced themselves they are sick, are afraid of going to the doctor, and are hypochondriacs.

These people will keep themselves living in a constant state of anxiety and fear that could easily be put at ease if they didn’t find misinformation when symptom checking.

The other type of people who are on these sites, are those who are straight up hypochondriacs and will go to the doctor with every little cough and sniffle because they, too, have convinced themselves of a serious illness and symptom checking has, in their mind, sealed the deal for them.

These people are also causing themselves further anxiety, but to make things worse, they’re taking up valuable time from doctors who could be seeing patients who genuinely need treatment for something.

Then there’s another group, who don’t take things seriously enough. They simply use these sites as self-diagnosis because they think they’re never going to get sick enough to justify going to the doctor, they’re too busy to go, or they don’t want to waste the doctor’s time with a small issue.

Due to so many variables, they could have something that needs treatment, but due to their self-diagnosis, they’re certain it’s just a minor thing that a few over the counter drugs will remedy.

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