you shouldn't google your symptoms

Did The Internet Tell You You’re Dying? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Google Your Symptoms

If your Google search has ever convinced you that your totally unrelated eye pain is cancer, then you, my friend, are not alone. Thousands of Redditors have fallen for it time and again. And while stressing over your health is completely normal, googling your symptoms often does more harm than good. No sentence that began with “I googled my symptoms and…” has ever ended well. Just like no google search ever rendered accurate medical results. So, here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t google your symptoms.  

google your symptoms
Source: 9GAG

#NotAllDiseases have symptoms

If COVID taught us anything, it’s that some illnesses can come without any symptoms. It all depends on your body type and individual immunity. And this is not just for COVID. A study by The Lancet (2014) found that 77% of flu infections didn’t have any symptoms. Many common lifestyle conditions like Hypertension, Type 2 diabetes don’t show any symptoms either. When you don’t even need to have a symptom to have a disease, googling for it seems silly, right?

As we deconstruct the myth behind symptoms, bear in mind that a lot of diseases have similar symptoms. Your nausea could mean everything from gas to COVID. So don’t freak out till you absolutely need to.

Cyberchondria leads to Hypochondria

Cyberchondria is the health anxiety that’s created by an internet search. According to a study published in Comprehensive Psychiatry, it often leads to Hypochondria. Hypochondria is an illness anxiety disorder that makes people believe they are always at the risk of falling ill. 

The study mentions that search results can make you so anxious that it may start affecting your usual health behaviour. The unrealistic fear may make people think of normal bodily functions as abnormal even when they are at their healthiest. 

You could make up symptoms in your head

The human brain works in mysterious ways. Sometimes, even to the extent of creating physical effects of our thoughts. 

Ever heard of psychosomatic illnesses? Psychosomatic illnesses are closely linked to hypochondriac behaviour. It is a situation where you worry yourself to the point of falling sick. The stress in your mind influences your body to show temporary symptoms. This is true for a number of issues ranging from fatigue to hypertension and erectile dysfunction.

Psychosomatic illnesses can exist without any medical explanation, causing more anxiety in patients. But it is important to trust the negative test results and know that it is all in your head. The good news is that these symptoms can be easily cured with behavioural therapy.  

Dr Google isn’t even highly recommended

Google is quite paradoxical. On one hand, it knows everything and on the other, it’s literally a web of lies. When you search for a symptom online, the top-most result is often from Wikipedia. Wikipedia also remains one of the most accessed sites when it comes to medical information. 

Research shows that 90% of medical information posted on Wikipedia is inaccurate and misleading. The study mentioned that 9 out of 10 links on illnesses had major errors. This included 10 of the most expensive conditions ranging from back pain to coronary diseases. 

Anyone can edit information online, even you, no verification is required. You wouldn’t recommend a dishonest doctor to a friend, would you? Then why trust unreliable sources online? 

Be careful what you search for

Search ranking is quite a scam. The Google search ranking algorithm allegedly tracks what you search for and feeds off it to show you similar results. So suppose you use Wikipedia for usual health searches, it will show Wikipedia as the top-ranked result.  This is true even if you’re viewing in incognito mode. Your search results will vary from that of your friend.  

SEO is a monster. Once you type a certain disease on your search bar, you are more likely to see targeted advertisements around that illness. What this does is that it pushes you down a rabbit hole, one that often ends in anxiety. 

You end up delaying real help and spending more

Help delayed is help denied, especially when you’re doing it to yourself. Often we end up spending hours researching a symptom instead of going to a doctor for help. This can sometimes end up making your condition worse. If you get tested in time or don’t skip your yearly check-up, you may be able to dodge the things you’re scared of in your search results. 

Delaying going to the doctor is not only risky for your health but also for your savings. Patients end up paying significantly more when they delay seeing their doctor. 

Self-diagnosis is never a good idea

Over-Googling your symptoms may even lead you to think you are capable of self-diagnosis. It’s easy to fall prey to the million advertisements, and WhatsApp forwards when you’re convinced your symptoms match.

People who think they’ve researched enough on the internet may believe they can get away with over-the-counter medicines. But it’s almost never useful because you may end up harming your body more. Remember that patient in Good Doctor who self-medicates, and renders himself resistant to all treatment? Sorry about the spoiler but don’t be like him. 

Unless you’re a licensed medical professional, don’t diagnose. Even doctors seek help from other doctors to avoid self-diagnosis. You can do it too. 

There may be an upside to this

Now let’s come to the good part. Sometimes, googling your symptoms may actually help, if it is from verified sources. This is because many people struggle with understanding their symptoms or finding the right words to describe them. While you may not find the correct diagnosis, your google search can help you communicate your issues to your doctor better. 

Healthy anxiety is real especially at a time like this. The pandemic hasn’t made it any easier on any of us. So searching your symptoms to make sense of what you feel wouldn’t be the worst idea. It’s okay to indulge once in a while but not at the cost of your mental health. Close the browser before you spiral. 

What can you do if you can’t help yourself from Googling?

  • Trust your doctor:
    Your doctor studied for a decade for exactly this, give them some credit. Trust your doc, they’ve earned this. Share what you feel and be honest with them. If you don’t like your current doctor, get a second opinion. Your own opinion isn’t medically enough.
  • Get your info from verified sources:
    Unless you’re going to triple-check every information you get on Wiki with peer-reviewed medical journals, don’t lose sleep over it. You can also set up a tele-consultation with a doctor if you want to ask or verify something.
  • Seek help:
    If you constantly feel anxious about falling sick, seek help from a licensed mental health professional. Talking about it, or sharing it with someone who knows how to deal with this can help. 

Psst… our partner hospitals have a great team of doctors just for you. And the best part? You can meet them and get tested whenever you want to. All you need to do is Get Even and we’ll give you unlimited OPD visits and diagnostics. You’ll never have to worry about your health again. Don’t believe us, check us out here