The availability of information online and the long wait for a doctor’s appointment lead many of us to self-diagnose. Let’s be honest: who hasn’t looked for their symptoms online before? While sometimes looking up symptoms online is the best way to ease your worries when you find out they are common, they can also present themselves as extremely worrisome. For some people symptoms that are attributed to extremely scary conditions, even if they are quite common, can be psychologically disruptive. Here you will find the pros and cons of self-diagnosis, however, as a general rule, we do recommend to consult a doctor even after your online search if the symptoms persist.

Pros

  • Internet diagnosis are much quicker than setting up a doctor’s appointment and wait for them to receive you. Most of the time, the symptoms disappear by themselves before your appointment date comes up, meaning looking up your symptoms might suggest you simply sleep it off and wait for it to pass.
  • Most of the time it can calm you down as you might realise your symptoms are pretty common and will pass in no time, without necessarily consulting a doctor.
  • When certain symptoms are particularly embarrassing they might save you from an awkward encounter with the doctor. In this case, although looking up symptoms first might be good for your peace of mind, we recommend consulting a doctor as well. They are trained professionals and they are there to help not to judge. Alternatively, you could consult an online doctor for more information!
  • It might help you discuss your symptoms with the doctor as you might have a clear idea of what you have and what you need. However, never think that what you read on the internet is more valuable than what the doctor has learned over years of studying and practicing. Always trust the doctor over your internet research as many people have a tendency to be hypochondriacs!

Cons

  • Self-diagnosis most of the time means the wrong diagnosis. Looking symptoms up online means that you might miss some other connected signs of a specific condition that might lead you to dismiss your unwellness as something temporary. Only your doctor has the knowledge and the experience to detect connections between symptoms so make sure you consult the experts.
  • Finding your symptoms match a serious diagnosis (which you do not suffer from) can lead to unnecessary stress and worry that could be avoided by consulting a specialist who is going to calm you down and treat your symptoms for what they are.
  • Not all websites are trustworthy. When you look up symptoms online make sure the website you are consulting is run by medical professionals that can advise you and put your mind at ease if necessary, not just listing symptoms and conditions! This way you will have a professional opinion in the privacy and comfort of your own home before you determine if visiting a GP in person is the best option for you.

The world wide web is an amazingly useful and at times dangerous place! As you know, you should not believe everything you find online, especially if your health depends on it. Therefore make sure that your research over your symptoms is done in a smart and efficient way and, if you feel like the opinion of an expert should be taken into account, make sure you consult them straight away with an open mind!

Written by Federica Pisanu