You’re sick at home, perhaps it’s night time, and your local medical centre is shut. You are wondering what’s wrong so a quick look online and some self-diagnosis should definitely ease those worries…
I had been getting very frequent headaches, fatigue and light-headedness. You know that feeling when you’re so hungover the room is spinning and you can’t even look at the ceiling without wanting to ‘shout groceries’? That. I had some other symptoms too, but the dizziness was my biggest concern and my mind began to get creative as to what I might have.
So I did what any sane, intelligent and capable (all of these may be debatable in my case) person living in the first world does; I went straight to Dr Google. I did this in order to alleviate my concerns and take a little worry out of life. Surely my symptoms could be explained with a simple diagnosis, treatment recommendations and I’d be well on my way to recovery by morning? Oh no. It did not exactly pan out like that.
Within a millisecond of punching my symptoms into Google over 15 million of pages of information were at my service. There are so many helpful websites on this internet thing! Information like this can be quite helpful:
“Dizziness may be just mildly annoying or caused by something possibly life-threatening.”
I won’t go into too much detail, as I spent quite some time trawling through all my potential ailments, but my search brought up a large number of possibilities. My possible diagnosis included: anaemia, brain tumour, chronic fatigue, anxiety, menopause, ear infection, stroke, brain tumour, heart attack, Meniere’s disease and BRAIN TUMOR.
I guess you could say I was pretty certain I had a brain tumour. I could feel it. I mean, I could actually feel it. I’ve always had a sort of lump on my head at the back there. And as I kept reading about the symptoms I was certain. I definitely felt tired and foggy in the morning. I wasn’t sure how to measure my blood pressure, but it was probably quite high. I couldn’t see any possibility of NOT having brain tumour.
By the morning I was deciding which pyjamas I would wear to hospital for my surgery, and who I would leave my coin collection to in my will (hey, that could be worth a lot of money one day…). I hadn’t had my brain tumour diagnosed yet, but had definitely developed a serious case of cyberchondria.
It took me a few days to get to my GP, so I had time to come to terms with my illness before he would confirm it. My GP and I have the same surname and whenever I see him he always cracks the same joke about me being his sister. I’m usually a bit of an easy crowd, but this time I wasn’t laughing. I walked into his surgery with a brain tumour and I walked out of there with a diagnosis of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) and a script for anti-nauseous medication.
Vertigo is pretty annoying and lasted for months, but it wasn’t life-threatening or serious at all. One the one hand it was a relief and I could cancel my order on those modest-but-sexy pyjamas I wanted for the hospital. But on the other hand I wasn’t allowed to climb ladders or operate heavy machinery. There went my weekend plans and career as forklift driver.
So I know you must be devastated to learn my career as a forklift driver never really took off, but please take heed in my message: don’t self-diagnose. No good will come of searching your symptoms online, it will probably make you think you only have a few hours left to live. And you can really freak people out when you start sending them suggestions of songs to play at your funeral and preferred picture for the funeral booklet. For me, next time I’m sick I’ll go back to my trusted method of diagnosis and call my mum. At least even if I am dying she knows just what to say to make me feel better.
Have you ever had cyberchondria and decided you were not long for this world?
Ps. If you must self-diagnose (which I know you will, you guys never listen to me! ;)) this article summarises the best sites to use and how to be skeptical.
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Yes, I have definitely suffered from cyberchondria in the past lol. The first time I experienced a migraine was a nightmare. I went straight to my laptop to find out what was up and what I found made me convinced that I was having an aneurysm. It didn’t help that I called my mom (who’s a nurse) and she couldn’t completely rule it out at first because I was panicking and starting to imagine some of the symptoms that I read online (as one does). I was like “this is it. I’m dead; my brain is bleeding, nothing can be done” which of course was completely wrong; it was just a really bad headache. I laugh about it now, but it was pretty freaky at the time 🙂
Totally. As soon as you think you have something you start thinking you have other symptoms too, I’m sure it was very scary at the time!
i had a patch of dry skin on my hand. i read into it and then it asked me all of these questions. they asked ‘have you got a headache? is the dry skin itchy? do you notice your skin more than normal?’ these questions, when answered came up with the fact that i had blood poisoning and i would need my hand amputated. standard.
sorry what?! AMPUTATED? i was freaking out, i didn’t go to the doctor because i was mega scared of the fact that i may loose my hand…. so it got worse and worse 😦
but then my mum tricked me into going to the doctor, they said that it was stress.
so the self diagnosis of mine had made me more stressed and therefore made my dry skin worse.
they said i needed to chill… then it will disappear with time
so there we go 🙂
Woah! I can see why you were avoiding the real doctor on this one. I would have done this same “you can leave me and my hand in one piece thank you”. 😉
Omigosh, yes!!! I remember once that I had a spot on my leg that had gone numb for a minute or so, and of course, I ran to the trusty ole’ webmd. I called a friend up at 2am to regretfully tell her that I had multiple sclerosis. I was devastated and felt too anxious to bear. While I was reading all of the MS symptoms, I was at work, and became so panicked that I actually had to leave early for “medical emergency” reasons. I went to the nearest hospital (in a part of town that I didn’t even frequent) and sat in the parking lot, unsure of whether I should go in and face the music or just hold off until I could see my GP. Anywho, long story short, I was worried to that degee unnecessarily. It was pure self-torture. My doctor couldn’t find anything wrong, and I started taking a B-complex vitamin, which I believe that I’m a little deficient in. Sometimes knowledge at your fingertips can be a pain!
You poor thing! That sounds pretty terrible. It’s amazing what the mind can convince itself of. At least we know we’re not alone with our extreme reactions!
I am old, so I am allowed, no, encouraged, to never really feel all that good. But I keep defying the authorities.
Oh yes, I love getting emails from my mother after she reads the newest cure for whatever!! And then she gets so mad at me because I wont start taking mega doses of vitamin D or stop drinking my coffe because it will cure me!! LOL
lol I’ve died of so many google diagnosis already. Enjoyable read. 🙂
Cyberchondria: Online health information and health anxiety: http://criticalscience.com/cyberchondria-online-health-information-health-anxiety.html