With the Internet allowing pretty much anything we want to be just a click away, we tend to get a little overzealous with what we share with other people; predominantly on social media websites.
However, even though we share many unnecessarily details of our daily rituals, one thing we do not tend to share is personal health information.
Of course, there are those posts about family members getting sick or having health problems.
In many of those cases, the people posting are asking for prayers for the afflicted. I have absolutely no problem with this practice, and it’s not necessarily the focus of this article.
What I’m trying to get at is that most of us don’t make posts about ourselves when it comes to our health. We leave it to others to make posts about us, or we just don’t say anything at all.
But despite our lack of sharing our health status on the Internet, there is a rising number of people turning to the Internet to diagnose themselves.
According to a study conducted by Rosemary Thackery, BYU professor of health science, “more than 60 percent of Internet users go online for health help, looking for advice, digging up user experiences on social media, and consulting online reviews in hunt of health providers and health care facilities”
Thackery believes that the percentage of Internet users that are looking at this information is staggering. However, with the lack of people sharing truthful information about them, the quality of information people are finding is less than what it could be.
Despite the positives of social media in the context of ones health, self-diagnosis can be a dangerous thing.
Typically, turning to the Internet to diagnose yourself turns a common cold into some deathly foreign disease that you can only get from going to a specific place in the Amazonian Rainforest during this specific time in the year. As ridiculous as I was being with that example, you know it’s true, to a certain extent.
“Good medical advice is hard to get even from your doctor” who may have known you for years and is fairly confident in your medical history.
Try depersonalizing the experience by turning to the Internet and you get a bunch of randomly generated diagnoses based on a few boxes that you checked to indicate your symptoms.
The whole system is preposterous, but I have to admit that I’ve done it myself; most of us have.
With everything we ever decide to do, there are lists of pros and cons for conducting self-diagnosis.
I mean if we are going to do it anyway, I figure we could at least make an informed decision.
Some of the pros are obvious. You learn about yourself, you are listening to your body, and you are more aware of the way your body functions.
Self-diagnosing is a lot cheaper than traveling to the doctor’s office and paying ridiculous co-pay only for them to tell you, “eh, you’ll be fine. Here’s a z-pack. If your symptoms persist past seven to ten days, give us a call.” Thanks doc, you’re a real help!
The Internet provides you a quick way to get information even if you are just trying to get more informed about what is going on with you before you go see your doctor. Or it’s a good way to understand what your doctor diagnosed you with.
Self-diagnosis can rarely, but sometimes quickly relieve stress when you discover that your symptoms are not as serious as you thought they were.
Like I said, the pros are rather straightforward but in no way outweigh the cons, at least in my opinion.
As I mentioned briefly earlier in the article, many of the websites run on an algorithm that matches conditions, ailments, and symptoms to a fairly simple database of possible diagnosis.
Since this process is very impersonal, there is no real collection of a medical history. You simply check the box of the symptoms you are aware of.
In some cases, the causes of the condition may be absent and it may be hard to specify the symptoms. It is also difficult to find websites that deal with multiple symptoms.
My personal favorite con is that self-diagnosis frequently mistakenly suggests that you have an extremely serious disease. As a general rule of being human, we often worry and tend to think the worse of ourselves when it comes to our health, which means we tend to look for more serious ailments rather than the minor causes.
So if you experience weight loss that you can’t explain, you probably don’t have cancer. You should actually go to your doctor.
Fortunately for all of us, there is such thing as online medical diagnosis. This is essentially a service that provides access to real doctors that are available on the Internet.
These doctors will answer questions and suggest tentative diagnoses to symptoms. This service is a lot more reliable and definitely cheaper than going face-to-face to visit a doctor.
Now, we’ve all heard horror stories about going to the Student Health Center when we are sick.
Since I’m a local student, my doctor is no more than twenty minutes away from campus. However, for those who are less fortunate, sometimes the Student Health Center is the only place available.
Or, there’s always the emergency room where your friends and family have a tendency of overreacting when you have to go there.
My suggestion to you is that you should probably stay away from places like WebMD.
They can be fun to look at when you aren’t actually sick, but beyond that they cause more trouble than they are worth.