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The Perils and Pitfalls of “Dr. Google”

The Perils and Pitfalls of “Dr. Google”

It may appear as though I am approaching this with a degree of humour and levity but in no way am I trying to diminish the seriousness and potential for harm in self-diagnosis. In discussion with doctors I have heard the term “Doctor Google” used to describe people looking to the internet for medical information or diagnosis. Well, if doctors explained things more completely maybe we wouldn’t feel a need to do the digging for answers, but there are some shortcomings with finding answers online.

As a former hypochondriac I have some experience in the area of self-diagnosis

I am no expert at it and have no degree to support my various hypotheses but I have a lot of experience with thinking and believing the worst. As it turns out some of it was due to hep C, so I wasn’t imagining things entirely. I could go on for hours telling you about all the experiences I had with multiple heart attacks that never were, and as it turns out my heart is in excellent shape along with good cardiovascular health. Go figure, it was anxiety that caused those feelings which led to very real-or so I felt- physical manifestations. My heart rate would go crazy and the cortisol ran like an open tap causing me to feel pain and shortness of breath – the whole works. It was frightening at the time, and nothing funny about that, as some of you know.

If the internet had existed all those years ago I am convinced I would have been at the hospital most of the time. “Doctor Google” would have me living with any number of skin diseases and all the rest because a symptom I had was sure to be something really bad and not something that would get better in a few days. That is enough about my own history, as I know everyone does not share it.

Some of those symptoms you are experiencing may be as a result of your illness, and may need the attention of a doctor. Determining what is minor and what qualifies as needing medical attention is for us all to decide based on our reasoning skills, but as I know, when you are dealing with anxiety it can be a balance we can find difficult to keep.

Finding the most up-to-date information

There are some very good sources for medical information online, and I am in no way suggesting anyone should not educate themselves about their own health. It is empowering to understand what is happening with our own health. It is also important to understand the possible side effects of a treatment or to know the right questions to ask our doctor. All of this is a good thing and is in real time online, with updates always available. Approaches to medicine changes, and with a book published 5 years ago it is not possible to be up to date with the most current information. This has been the case with hep C treatments in recent years, as we know.

My main message here is to be aware that Doctor Google cannot diagnose us very well or accurately, and use caution when using the internet for medical advice.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.