The real risks of self-diagnosis

Are you suffering from something? A rash, maybe a fever or a red-eye can determine you to search on the internet for an answer. Many times people choose to search the Web to figure out what may be wrong with them, rather than to make an appointment with the doctor. With limited time and the wealth of information now available at the click of a mouse, people tend to “Google” anything. In this article we will describe when self-diagnosis is dangerous, and what you might know overtly about this danger. Here are a few truths to consider and how self-diagnosis can affect you.

What are the risks of self-diagnosis? Too often this practice leads to inaccurate, worst-case conclusions.


Getting information via the Web can also make it difficult to decide what symptoms mean in the absence of a doctor’s analysis. According to Harvard Med, Online Symptoms Checkers are wrong about 70% of the time. Similar results were found in the British Medical Journal.

While healthcare professionals acknowledge the convenience of the internet and sympathize with the struggle of some insurance plans, here are some reasons you should think twice before you search on the World Wide Web for your health problems. The risks that are associated with self-medication include:

  • The stress caused by assuming the worst about your symptoms before seeing a doctor can end up becoming an added detriment to your health.
  • The benefit of seeing a doctor is the access to trained medical experience and the personal relationship you form. The personal knowledge your doctor has about you and your medical history can’t be replaced by a website.
  • There’s also the danger of self-medicating using products with negative side effects. It’s best to consult your doctor about remedies you’d like to use because your provider will be able to inform you of the risks associated with these treatments, specific to your health and history.
  • Self-medication can be life-threatening when inaccurate dosages are taken. When you estimate your own dosage, you are at risk for taking enough to result in an accidental overdose.

When it comes to themselves, people tend to exaggerate

According to the researchers, when referring to their own symptoms people were much quicker to diagnose to a rare disease compared if they thought the symptoms were someone else’s.

Imagine the situation that you need to take a decision about someone else rather than yourself — people tend to rely more on broader information such as statistics and less on information specific to the individual, such as the symptoms he or she is having.

Consumers often fear the worst when it comes to their own health while maintaining a calm objectivity with regard to others,” said Yan Dengfeng Yan, a doctoral student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. If you’ve got pain in the chest, you think heart attack. If a friend of a friend has the same symptoms, you say probably indigestion.

Think twice about self-diagnosing

While this article may sound like an internet ban when it comes to health information, it’s important to know that doctors do not intend to prohibit their patients from playing an active role in healthcare. It’s great that you can stay informed, but self-diagnosis is a bad thing for you and for your own mental and physical health.

Doctors are generally very enthusiastic to answer patients’ questions, so it would help if you actually trusted your doctor. If your doctor is someone whom you cannot trust, then think again about that and choose a person you fully trust. Your doctor should respect your opinion, but the discussion should be an active one. If you doubt the doctor’s diagnosis, tell him or her that you do and say why. This is much better than silently diagnosing your own syndrome.

In conclusion, self-diagnosis can have tremendous negative repercussions on the patient. For this reason, while reading is helpful and informative, it is always best to discuss your impressions with a doctor before you decide on the treatment you want.

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