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The Internet Can be an Aid and Threat in Self-Diagnosis

By HERWriter
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With an overabundance of online medical sources, it’s easy for people to attempt to solve their own problems and try to figure out what’s wrong with them. It can be easier sometimes to surf the Internet from home than make an appointment or find the right doctor or even go through several doctors.

However, like many doctors or psychologists may say, self-diagnosis can be dangerous. This isn’t because they are afraid of losing their importance, but diagnosing can actually be quite difficult without having full knowledge of different symptoms and disorders.

For example, according to a blog on Psychology Today, major depression can cause multiple symptoms like insomnia, inattention and depression. Someone who self-diagnoses can think they have three separate disorders instead of one overall disorder (or no disorder at all). Also, someone who self-diagnoses can overlook symptoms that might not even be a psychological disorder but could be caused by a medical condition.

If a person becomes so set on their own diagnosis, this can cause them to overlook other possibilities and symptoms, and could even stress them out over their supposed disorder.

It is important to be able to trust a professional to do his or her job, though it does help to be informed and active in a session. Patients can be active by reading up on different mental disorders, especially those they think they might have.

For example, after reading about several different disorders, I realized there were a few behaviors of mine that might be considered abnormal that I hadn’t thought to bring up before. This could prove useful in future counseling sessions and help me to further understand myself.

One popular website, www.wrongdiagnosis.com, says that “self-diagnosis is a dangerous practice.” In fact, the website is built for consumers to be more informed about their health but also encourages them to go to their doctor with this information. Users of the site need to remember the last part: go to a doctor, at least if it’s serious, is affecting daily functioning and causing harm in some way.

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I have ocd health anxiety, and I've found that researching on the internet was one of the hardest rituals to stop. Everytime I'd search, I'd get a brief bit of relief from the anxiety, but followed by even worse distress about what I'd find, which would make me keep searching hoping for something to relieve the distress, a vicious cycle. But seeing my doctor was also a ritual to reduce anxiety, that didn't last longer than one visit and I'd end up going back again. I'm slowly learning in through exposure/response prevention therapy to tolerate the anxiety of uncertainty--no human gets a definitive 100% certainty that they don't have a certain disease or that their doctor is 100% right. It also helps if I can be honest with my doctor that my anxiety is active, and that she doesn't make me feel ashamed that I have an anxiety disorder.

May 21, 2010 - 5:24am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.