By: Dr. Todd Thatcher
Considering there are at least 10,000 diseases in the world, symptoms of one condition will often overlap the symptoms associated with dozens of other conditions. Although the internet is an excellent tool, it can often be more harmful than good — especially when it comes to your physical and mental health.
There are currently more than 200 recognized forms of mental illness, ranging from depression to anxiety disorders and schizophrenia to PTSD, and when you turn to the internet for answers, you may head down a path that worsens your symptoms and overall quality of life.
The message here is do not diagnose yourself on the internet. Here’s why.
What Is Self-Diagnosis?
Self diagnosis is the process of diagnosing or identifying a medical condition in yourself. Majority of the time, people google a symptom or medical sign and try to figure out if they have a condition, this is self diagnosing. Oftentimes a self diagnosis is wrong and can lead people astray, for that reason, self diagnosing is highly frowned upon.
Self-Diagnosis- Why You Shouldn’t Do It
Not only is self-diagnosing bad, but it can also be dangerous. If you jump to conclusions about the condition you’re suffering from, you may begin wrongful treatment. When individuals self-diagnosis psychological syndromes, they can miss a medical disease that contributes to their symptoms. With self diagnosis you also run the risk of being completely wrong about an illness you have, especially if the symptoms you are experiencing are common.
In some cases self diagnosis can be life-threatening. For example, a brain tumor can cause changes in personality, as well as depression or psychosis — or if you self-diagnosis a panic disorder, you may miss the diagnosis of heart or thyroid issues. Another example is if you are experiencing common symptoms like a headache, your search results for potential causes can range from a brain tumor to simple dehydration. Self diagnosis is bad and is a dangerous practice, if you are experiencing any worrying symptoms contact a doctor instead of being misled by the internet.
There are also many instances when you miss something that you yourself do not see. For example, you may feel as though you’re crippled by anxiety, leading you to believe you have an anxiety disorder. While this may be the case, an anxiety disorder often covers up a major depressive disorder. As many as two-thirds of people who seek treatment for anxiety also have depression.
The available research on self diagnosis s telling and concerning. A study from the Pew Research Center found that only around half of people that look online for information tell their doctors about what they discovered. In many of these cases, individuals believe what they uncover from search engines, often acting without consulting an outside source.
The reason self diagnosis is bad because of the way the internet is designed in terms of keywords and algorithms. Search engines often provide information on some of the most serious ailments, showcasing these ailments first. For example, a study conducted by Microsoft found that when searching for the symptom headache, “brain tumor” showcased the same probability as the diagnosis “caffeine withdrawal.” This study was the first of its kind to examine the term “cyberchondria” — which initially emerged in 2000. This term refers to the practice of leaping to conclusions while someone researches health-related matters online.
Can You Self-Diagnose Mental Illness?
Although it’s great to be aware of your mental health and actively seek answers, you should not attempt to self diagnose a mental illness. Reaching a diagnosis can be a complex process, especially when you exhibit symptoms associated with numerous mental illnesses. This is particularly dangerous when you’re in denial about select symptoms.
In other cases, you may think you have multiple conditions that can be explained by one illness. For example, if you exhibit depression and have issues with inattention and lack of sleep, you may think you have major depression, ADHD, and a sleep disorder. However, depression can cause all three of the above symptoms. This means that you may make matters worse by worrying more than you need to or attempting to treat conditions you may not have.
When you wrongfully self-diagnose your symptoms, you may attempt to cure your condition through your diet, over-the-counter medications, or other methods, potentially complicating your true condition. If you address a specific symptom while ignoring the underlying source of your symptoms, your initial mental illness may worsen.
Bottom line: It’s important to take your health seriously and actively seek answers when something seems abnormal. There are plenty of great resources online. However, there is also a lot of misleading content. When self-diagnosing leads to self-treatment, you may not only worsen your current condition but also complicate treatment later on. If you do seek answers online and feel as though you have uncovered a potential diagnosis, speak to a professional to confirm your findings. Taking this step could make all the difference in terms of your wellness, quality of life, and future.
Why You Should See a Professional for Mental Health Diagnoses
To properly heal from any medical condition, whether it be mental, physical, or both, a formal diagnosis is the first step. A professional diagnosis will provide you with the roadmap needed to succeed as you progress toward optimal wellness. A professional mental health facility, such as Highland Springs, can help you create a treatment plan that truly addresses your needs.
At the end of the day, your diagnosis is one of the most important aspects of your recovery plan. Understanding your diagnosis means understanding the cause of what ails you. Getting this step right is imperative. However, reaching a true diagnosis is a process — especially when you’re living with more than one condition. When you work with a mental health professional, you will build the best team possible. The mental health professional will offer the knowledge and training required to reach a more definitive diagnosis, while you will provide all the details required to reach that diagnosis.
The idea here is for you to take an active role in your treatment. This means you’ll need to communicate clearly and exchange information as best you can. When you seek assistance, remain mindful of what your concerns are, how your symptoms impact your daily life, and what conclusions you have reached based on both your research and experience. At this point, a mental health professional can then explore various possibilities.
Once a diagnosis is made, you will receive individualized treatment. That is why, at Highland Springs, we offer a team of therapists that specializes in a variety of fields. This ensures that we meet all of our patients’ unique needs.
Dr. Todd Thatcher
Dr. Thatcher, DO, CMRO, works with the Valley Behavioral Health’s Director of Nursing providing supervision and oversight of medical operations for over 70 medical staff members and medical issues in over 70 clinics and facilities in Utah, Boise Idaho, and Phoenix Arizona.
His major medical initiatives include telehealth, integrated care, medication-assisted treatment, and substance abuse services, forensics services, and seamless integration of jail/prison/mental health court & drug court/probation/parole services with behavioral health and substance abuse treatment, ValleyLab blood and urine drug testing, data analytics to drive better outcomes & computerized automation of standardized measurement tools, and Brainsway Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation clinic.