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Why Dr Google Is Making It Worse

If you’re using the Internet to make sense of a health condition thinking you can diagnose yourself into getting better, then think again. You might just be making your health worse.

Reaching for Dr Google every time you get a sign of illness is not always as helpful as it sounds, particularly if you’re prone to health anxiety. Your cold becomes pneumonia. Being out of breath is an asthma attack. Heart palpitations must be a heart attack. A lump is definitely cancer and a headache is most certainly a brain tumour.

For those who worry a tad too much about getting an illness, the plethora of medical and health websites that lure us to self-diagnose cause more of a problem than the original symptom.

Those who are affected by health anxiety have an obsessional preoccupation with the idea that they’re currently experiencing a physical illness, or believe that they are very likely to get a serious illness in the future. Health anxiety can also extend to concerns about the possibility of a severe illness in people close to them.

This is one type of anxiety that I often catch myself experiencing from time to time. Having quite a few family and friends passing away in the last few years, I have a radar on for anyone close to me with a hint of sickness. There’s enough evidence in my brain to warrant worry and swift action to sort it out. Without my own tools to make me more rational about it, my brain, like many others, can go off on the ’they are going to die’ tangent a little too quickly.

Having good awareness of our body and knowing the signs of serious illness is important and can lead to early diagnosis and more successful treatment. But, unless you are in a problem solving mode rather than a ‘what if I have this disease?’ mode, it’s not very helpful at all.

Often people increase their anxiety by googling their symptoms until they are convinced they have a serious illness. They look for symptoms that match their own and ignore all the other information that is more likely what they are experiencing. The Internet presents us with a lot of the worst case scenarios, and we often pay more attention to this.

Constantly researching on the Internet and worrying about what you find (and you will find something) is likely to aggravate your distress. Anxiety manifests itself physically, so the little symptoms that you were initially concerned about, will often get worse as a result of finding out more about severe health conditions. From nausea and diarrhoea through to headaches and heart palpitations. Anxiety symptoms are very similar to what another illness could possibly be.

Anxiety also has the ability to turn off your natural healing mechanisms; so self-diagnosing yourself sicker is doing you no favours.

So next time you have some signs and symptoms that are suggestive of illness, make sure you keep calm, and allow your body to self-heal. It’s made to, so makes sure you are looking after it enough to allow it to do it’s job.

Distract yourself from reaching for the answers on Google. Just because there is medical advice is on the internet doesn’t mean it’s right. Anyone can write a blog, write a book and create a website. Many times people are giving health advice based on personal beliefs or opinions rather than scientific evidence, which means that they’re not necessarily correct.

Rather than sitting in the ‘what if’ zone of thinking about a future disease – get into problem solving mode and talk to a health professional about it straight away. That way you can rule out any concerns you have and get the reassurance that’s needed.

Then you can learn to reduce your anxiety and allow your body to do what it does best. Heal.

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