Stop Googling Your Symptoms
This morning we took a look at CyberChondriacs. And, yes, that is a completely invented term. And, no, I have no idea how to spell it. (One of the perks of working in the media is promoting the deterioration of the English language.)
That all said, it is a very real phenomenon – people searching for medical information online and whipping themselves into a paranoid frenzy. I know the pitfalls well.
A close family member had a health challenge a couple years back, and I jumped into the world of online medical research with gusto. I went well beyond traditional resources like WebMD and waded into archives of old journal articles and patient message boards. I even went so far as to translate sites I found in Russian. I was obsessed and my research became an addiction.
Experts warn there is a great deal of false and misleading information on the Internet. That’s true – I learned the hard way that eating a bucket of chocolate pudding doesn’t alleviate a headache.
But, for me, the outright quackery was far less damaging than the cold, hard, accurate facts. There is no more devastating statistic than a Survival Rate. That number rattles around your brain like it’s the solution to an equation that could save your life. You massage it, you toy with it… “If 75.2% survive, that means 24.8% don’t… and if 24.8% don’t that means almost 1 in 4…” There’s no better, darker way to learn math.
And then there are those lists of symptoms that might mean you have a cold, and might mean you have a brain tumor. We should really teach certain people the ability to distinguish which outcome is more likely. We could call it “Medical School.”
When you or someone you love is sick, it can feel like your world has spun out of control. Learning about the ailment can create the illusion of regaining control, as if being educated about the disease might help you defeat it. It can’t. And sometimes a little ignorance really is bliss.
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