Why you really need to stop Googling your symptoms

Google is not a Doctor. Stop Googling your symptoms.

Googling your symptoms when you’re unwell is hardly a new thing. We’re all at it, typing our ailments into Google and convincing ourselves that we’re dying of a rare disease. Research suggests that a whopping 1 in 4 people are googling your symptoms and self diagnosing rather than going to the doctor.

Why? Well, according to the UK Digital health report, 10 per cent say they do so because they couldn’t get a GP appointment, and another 11 per cent said that they couldn’t get time off work to go to the doctor’s surgery. So you can see the temptation – going to the GP means taking time out, spending hours on the phone booking an appointment and then waiting weeks for said appointment to come round. That is what’s generally known in the trade as ‘a ball ache’. But when you get there, you’re being seen be a trained professional, rather than, well y’know, your own imagination and a bunch of random web links.

Dr Clare Morrison, GP for MedExpress.co.uk, explained why self-diagnosis is a bad idea. ‘Googling your symptoms is often the worse thing someone could do as it will just cause unnecessary anxiety. Anything you Google will often lead to your condition being something incredibly serious when really you just have a common cold. Tempting as it is, try to leave the diagnostics to the doctors.’

And it’s true. We’ve all typed in flu symptoms only to have the internet suggest that it’s anything from pregnancy to ebola. Which, unsurprisingly, leaves you feeling anxious, upset and confused. But that worrying can actually become a real problem, with Psychology Today suggesting that there’s a link between Googling your symptoms and the kind of hypochondria that falls under the umbrella of an anxiety disorder and depression.

In short, Googling your symptoms is really bad for your mental health.

If you are going to insist on googling your symptoms (and we really don’t recommend it) then you should stick to the NHS website, which has been properly researched and regulated. But even a webpage that has actual facts on it doesn’t mean you’ve correctly identified what’s wrong with you.

The inefficiency of Googling your symptoms has lead to a useful rise of online medical services, like MedExpress.co.uk, where you can fill out a medical questionnaire which is reviewed by a doctor before you’re given a prescription, or services like PushDoctor.co.uk where you can have a GP consultation over FaceTime.

Online services are definitely a better alternative to blindly self diagnosing, but realistically there’s no replacement for seeing a real life doctor. Your GP might well pick up on symptoms that you’re not even aware of, just by looking at you. However great the online doctor is, without seeing you physically it’s difficult to spot low level indicators of illness. Finding time to go to the surgery is a pain, yes, but we’re super lucky to live in a country where it doesn’t cost us anything to see a doctor (yet) so step away from Google and make that appointment.

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