The Dangers of Googling Your Symptoms

The Dangers of Googling Your Symptoms | Dr. Ali Ghahary

If you’ve ever been faced with a health crisis, the first thing you want to do is find out all there is to know on your diagnosis.

To do this, many patients tend to turn to Google for information – and while a lot of what’s found on search engines is correct and can be helpful in many ways, that’s not to say that all content online is 100% accurate. Anyone can create a blog and publish content. There are also sites like Wikipedia, which allow their content to be edited by the general public, as well as message boards and online forums that allow open communication from users, oftentimes unmoderated. In some cases, medical information found on these sources can be inaccurate; therefore it’s always important to make sure you’re getting your data from a reliable source, such as a reputable medical organization or a verified medical professional like Dr. Ali Ghahary.

Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, uses his website to share information on some of the most common health concerns plaguing patients in Canada today – and also cross-posts that information to his social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Googling your symptoms can also create added stress and anxiety on top of the stress and anxiety you were already dealing with upon receiving your diagnosis. When it comes to Google, it doesn’t just share a little bit of information – it shares a lot – and not just a lot, but all of it. For example, if you were to search the term “paper cut” on Google, this brings up articles on how paper cuts could also potentially trigger skin tumours – though the chances of that actually happening are quite rare. That doesn’t mean that this information is incorrect, however. It is simply the job of healthcare professionals like Dr. Ali Ghahary to provide the general public with as much information as possible. If you’re ever curious about any symptoms you’re experiencing or conditions you’ve been diagnosed with, or are feeling unnerved about any medical information you’ve read online, never hesitate to book an appointment with your family physician and ask any questions you might have – because nothing is off-limits when it comes to your health. If you don’t have a family physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary welcomes walk-in patients at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby. To find out Dr. Ghahary’s walk-in hours, visit the clinic website at brentwoodwalk-inclinic.com.

Unfortunately, once you’ve looked up your health condition online the first time, you tend to be prone to wanting to search any other conditions your physician mentions to you, and it can almost become like an obsession. The term for this, albeit sounding a bit silly, is known as cyberchondria – and rather than reaching out to a trusted medical professional, cyberchondriacs tend to turn to the internet for information instead. They can become so dependent on searching their diagnosis’ online that it can even have an impact on their day-to-day activities. Also, because the internet does tend to share worst-case scenarios, cyberchondriacs are also much more likely to exaggerate their symptoms to others/think they’re worse than they really are. You can also develop a condition known as hypochondria as a result of Googling too many of your symptoms, which can lead to unreasonable and unwarranted worry that you might come down with a serious illness when, in reality, there is no cause for concern.

The first thing you should do in order to avoid unnecessary stress and anxiety is to STOP Googling your symptoms! While that’s easier said than done, too much stress and anxiety can have a significant impact on the mood, and can lead to things like depression as well as more intense anxiety disorders. If the stress and anxiety becomes so severe that it begins to have an impact on your ability to function day in and day out, Dr. Ali Ghahary may need to look at prescribing patients with anti-anxiety medications, and in some cases even antidepressants – but of course this is a scenario you should strive to avoid as much as possible.

As a primary care physician it is Dr. Ali Ghahary’s responsibility to put patients’ at ease and answer any questions they might have pertaining to their health – as again, no question is ever a bad question to ask, and you’ll feel a lot better having asked it than wondering, ‘What if?’