The 21st-century 20-something

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Beware the Internet Self-Diagnosis Trap

We all do it. Find something mildly wrong with us and look up the symptoms on WebMD, or some
similar site that encourages seemingly harmless self-diagnosis.

Harmless, that is, until you conclude that you have an incurable disease that you can't pronounce that almost always lists 'death' as a possible side effect.

I don't really consider myself a hypochondriac at all. I hate going to the doctor, taking pills and most definitely going to a germ-infested emergency room or urgent care facility.
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So I reason with myself that it makes more sense to look up my symptoms and see what could be causing them, rather than waste 2 hours of my life in a waiting room to find out 15 minutes later that nothing is wrong with me.

Wrong. Oh so terribly wrong.

I should know better after doing this several times, but diagnosing yourself from symptoms you find on the Internet is a trap. The Internet Self-Diagnosis Trap, as I call it. It makes you paranoid, anxious and often itchy for no reason.

A simple cough turns into bronchitis and a dry patch of skin becomes Scarlet Fever. We assume the worst. It's innate in all human beings.

Then all of the sudden we find ourselves pillaging through our cupboards for garlic and cloves to treat our imaginary disease before we start bleeding from strange orifices, become paralyzed or die.

Then, once we're good and paranoid, we start convincing ourselves that we are destined to be in the .000000001% that dies from the common cold. Which we definitely have. That, or strep throat. Or wait, maybe it's pneumonia? Cancer, it's definitely cancer.

Then we lose sleep and become stressed, which almost always makes us more sick than we were in the first place.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying looking up symptoms is always a bad thing. I'm sure in some cases it has helped people figure out something was wrong with them that warrants a trip to the doctor's office. It can be helpful, if used properly, by people with common sense and reason.

Either way, I hope you all stay in good health and if you do get the tickle in your throat, just don't get carried away on WebMD. Drink some tea, get some sleep and eat some salad. You'll feel better.


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