Oct 29, 2022

Is self-diagnosing bad?

With the advances in technology and available resources, it's now easier than ever to feel empowered to do anything and perform any task we want.

According to a 2017 report by Forbes Agency Council, YouTube is no longer considered "just a website."

Some sources even claim that it is a commonly used search engine (second to Google).

Why take your car to the garage for an oil change when you can simply search for a video on YouTube explaining how to do it?

You've never done it before, but tutorials make it quick and easy to scoff at the idea of paying someone to do what seems so simple to achieve.

I still find myself referencing the same video on how to tie a tie.

I first searched for this back in the early days of my professional career and have never turned back or strayed from this video.

Heck, my dad even likes to point out that folks, much younger than me, are doing tasks like changing tires or headlights on 2009 Chevy Malibu's (sounds easier than it is…but if you know, you know).

Things that I'm not even confident enough in myself to do.

Well, the same way of thinking seems to be in effect for community medical services.

You know, the jobs of doctors, physicians, nurses, etc.

Why take a hit on your insurance (if you have insurance) or pay out-of-pocket copays when you can simply search your symptoms on Google or WebMD and find something over the counter that remedies it?

Well, I'm here to hopefully help guide you and tell you why you shouldn't self-diagnose, or better yet, self-prescribe when it comes to your health and the risks of self-diagnosis and searching symptoms online.

What is self-diagnosis?

Self-diagnosis is the art of "playing doctor."

It's acting as if you're the expert simply by performing a few searches versus the years of study, practice, and expertise needed.

A LinkedIn post from Spencer Dorn, Vice Chair and Professor of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), talked about this.

In the post, Dorn goes on to make the comparison between the uprise in restaurant QR code/menus and self-service models requiring less resources and fewer people to the self-service tools becoming available to patients in the healthcare industry.

"I believe this is generally positive – self service reduces labor needs and increases productivity," Dorn states. "But we must be mindful of the tradeoffs."

I especially liked Dorn's illustration that states the challenge of the industry is to design easy enough self-service tools "for the right uses", but also embed "off-ramps for those who need a higher level of service from a fellow human."

The risks of self-diagnosis and searching symptoms online

In one instance or portrayal of the risks of self-diagnosis and searching symptoms online, it's the practice of feeling bloated when eating certain foods and convincing yourself the problem will go away if you just stop eating that food or take a medication every time you want to eat the food.

And let me preface this and say that companies like Lactaid have done a good job marketing on this platform (which is totally fine). The goal of this blog post is to differentiate when self-diagnosis is good and when it's bad.

But the problem with that is there could be more of an underlying cause associated with your stomach discomfort.

What happens when you find yourself bloated by eating another food?

Do you give that up too?

What if it becomes an endless cycle of discomfort and removal?

When does it end?

What finally needs to take place before you decide to talk to a medical professional about your experience?

Will that be at a time that's too late?

Now, you're losing valuable nutrients that your body needs simply because you think the issue will cease by abandoning the foods you once loved.

And it might not be the food to begin with.

So, taking a supplement like Lactaid only becomes bad when the underlying issues don't seem to cease fire.

This is just one instance where self-diagnosis can be bad.

There are many others.

And where sources like WebMD can be a great value, it should never be used as a complete replacement for medical assisted treatment.

Ask yourself this question.

When you visit your doctor or physician and rattle off a list of symptoms you have/Googled…

…and considering that doctors are very good at listening and hearing your concerns…

…have you ever felt they take the conversation in a direction that you never saw coming?

Want to know why?

Because all too often, we get inside our heads and fall down the rabbit hole into what we "think" we know about our symptoms.

Oh, Good. You know everything.

It's okay to use sources like WebMD to establish a baseline, but you should never self-prescribe yourself or think you know more than medical professionals with years of practice, study, and knowledge.

When is it OK to self-diagnose instead of seeing a doctor?

Where it's okay to self-diagnose a vehicle and attempt to fix on your own, you must be very aware of the implications or added damage you could cause by not fully understanding or knowing what you're doing.

The same goes for your body and your health.

To make a long story short, I do believe that self-diagnosis is okay.

It's always okay to do research and find ailments that most closely align with what you're experiencing.

But what you do with that research…

…your next move, like where you take it…

…makes all the difference.

What's not okay is then taking your research and self-prescribing…

"The prescription for your ill."

*Cue B.E. Taylor Group's Vitamin L.*

senior man having pain in his hand
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