In the digital era, tons of information is available a click away. The hang of technology has got into us deeply and each person desires ease in every action they perform. Google is one such product of the technology and acts as an amazing source of obtaining information. It comes in handy when one needs an answer or desires to seek knowledge. But in relation to surfing health issues, it is the worst place you can visit.
We all are reprehensible for googling the symptoms whenever we experience any minor prodrome. The activity has become so habitual that doctor’s visit is disfavoured over the use of the internet. This paves the path for excessive internet surfing to get information on diagnosis of a disease or to check the symptoms of a particular disease, that can prove to be fatal most of the time. To answer how, let us dig deeper!
- Loads of information are found on the internet and most of the websites are not even run by the doctors. This gives rise to misdiagnosis and misdiagnosis can lead to mental as well as physical impact on the health of a person.
- Instead of being reassured by the information, it heightens the anxiety until you are convinced that something is very wrong with you. This pushes you to gain abnormal chronic anxiety about your health, also called hypochondria.
- A report has concluded that there are 1 million cases of hypochondria in India. This figure helps one comprehend the deteriorating consequences of surfing the internet for self-diagnosis.
Google, though a great source of obtaining knowledge, can never replace a visit to the doctor’s clinic. In fact, consistently doing so brings about degenerating influence on one’s health and takes you far away from getting any real help.
Cyberchondria – A Mental Disease From Using Internet:
Cyberchondria is not faux and in simple terms refers to the anxiety in a person started by the use of internet search for getting a medical diagnosis of a disease. A British newspaper coined the term in the early 2000s as a play on word hypochondria. Like hypochondria, cyberchondria involves excessive anxiety about health. BBC has even called Cyberchondria an internet printout syndrome, in 2001.
What Science Says About The Impacts of Cyberchondria?
- Manoeuvring the internet for self diagnosis gives rise to cyberchondria It creates a sense of fear and anxiety about one’s health and makes way for false and negative conclusions. Especially in case of skin diseases, that have very negatively potent images on the internet.
- Study published in the journal of paediatrics, researchers looked at search terms surrounding sudden infant death syndrome. This led them to deduce that, of 1300 websites analysed, only 43.5% contained information in line with recommendation from the American Academy of paediatrics.
- This finding ushers us to believe that there is no reliability on the information one may find online and implicates that unrestricted use of google for health issues is not the safe option for getting treatment.
How Misdiagnosis & Misguidance Paves The Way For Fatality?
- Most of the information contained online or on the internet is not in line with the real diagnosis of the disease. On googling the symptoms, most of the websites show irrelevant content leading to misdiagnosis that may open the doors of fatality.
- It is reported that 40% of Americans have misdiagnosed themselves with a serious disease after using Google.
- Suppose, person experiences a minor symptom like headache. Now on googling the reasons, the web page shows you the series of diseases which include headache as one of the symptoms. As a layperson, you may lack a way of handling this information. You may mistake something else for tumour or cancer & start panicking. With the simple click of button, you misdiagnose a minor headache as Brain tumour, migraine or brain vessel damage.
- In the scenario of diseases related to skin, things get worst for the particular reason that many of them look awful. One can find images of almost all of these skin diseases & they can lead to mental disturbance even though you may show no symptom of any such disease.
- This is how consulting ‘Dr Google’ for symptoms and diagnosis of a disease becomes the root cause of hypochondria & cyberchondria. The prime reason for this is that people don’t know how to process the information available online.
Why is Self-Diagnosis Harmful?
- Self-diagnosis through googling makes you think about the worst case scenario of any situation. For example, if you experience sleepless night for 2-3 times in a row, by googling symptoms you may conclude that you have insomnia even if that may not be the case.
- Also, if you are habitual of googling symptoms, a few episodes of sadness & hopelessness accompanied with loss of appetite & other symptoms, may cause you to believe that you have depression or other mental health disorders.
- The habit of self-diagnosis may lead you to experience anxiety more often & it can give rise to mental health issues that were not there in the first place.
- The stuff you find on Google appeals to your subconscious mind and convinces you that the things are worst that they appear to be.
Scientific Facts On Influence Of Internet On People Regarding Self-Diagnosis:
- Becker’s health review concluded that up to 2015, symptom checkers had 100 million users in the United States alone.
- InsightPlus stated that, “One tool, Health direct Symptom Checker, doubled in use during 2019. It has over 2 million uses per year”.
- JMIR publication issued a statement that read as, “Almost 16% of people who use symptom checkers are using them to obtain medical advice without needing to see a doctor.”
- In another publication JMIR stated that, “84% perceive these as a diagnostic tool, and 76% said they provided insights to leading them closer to a diagnosis.” This indicates the dependency of people on obtaining enlightenment from the internet regarding the diagnosis of a disease.
- At Mayo clinic, psychologist Dr Richard Siamese had laid stress on the necessity of breaking the cycle of searching the internet for issues regarding health.
- One suggestion on achieving this is, “Cognitive Behavioural theory”. It aims to break the channel which is formed by turning towards “Dr Google”.
To conclude, if you’re feeling under the weather, step away from the search engine and schedule a visit with a doctor. Seeking help from the internet should not be an option as it may be misleading. In addition to this, if Google provided all the answers related to health issues then Doctors wouldn’t have their job in the first place. Obtaining real help is crucial and the right thing to do is to utilise google to Search for knowledge, not for diagnosis.