When the internet is always on hand to answer our burning questions, it is no surprise that as soon as we feel unwell or experience strange symptoms, we turn to ‘Doctor Google’. For some, it can be hard getting a doctor’s appointment; you may feel like you’re wasting their time or perhaps are too embarrassed to talk about your illness.
The problem is that many conditions have similar symptoms. Without expert knowledge, it can be easy to confuse your symptoms and make a diagnosis which is much more or less severe than it really is. For example, you may be experiencing a headache, and a search on Google may lead you to believe you have a brain tumour. This can give you more stress and anxiety than is necessary.
A GP, on the other hand, would be able to take into account all of the symptoms you are experiencing, your medical history and your general health to provide a more accurate diagnosis and put your mind at ease. Instead, more and more people are resorting to their search engine and becoming ‘cyberchondriacs’ where fear of serious illness leaves people scared to seek expert medical help.
What conditions do people search for?
In the UK waiting times are constantly increasing meaning more and more people are heading online to self diagnose. In fact, data from Google suggests that over 114 Million health related searches were conducted online via the popular search engine in 2018 alone.
Pneumonia is one of the most commonly searched for conditions with 2.24 million hits on Google a month. Other conditions that receive over 1.5 million searches a month include depression, endometriosis and diabetes. There are over 1.22 million searches per month for anxiety.
Is it OK to search for symptoms?
In some cases, the internet can be useful in directing people to the right medical professionals. For example, whether to speak to a pharmacist, GP or consultant or how to manage a specific condition.
However, often, the internet is full of unreliable and false information which could lead to anxiety or people assuming the worst for their symptoms.
Individuals need to realise that doctors do not see patients as ‘timewasters’ instead as those who are vigilant and concerned about their health. If you are worried about your health then it is wise to seek out a medically trained professional rather than your favourite search engine.
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