don't google your symptoms

People with excessive anxiety related to their health often think every minor symptom or sensation they experience is an indicator of a major, life-threatening illness. We have a tendency to run to Google and look up what might be causing the symptom, but doing so is a bad idea.

Reasons Not to Google Your Symptoms

The best advice I can give is force yourself not to go Google your symptoms, because

    • You’re probably not a doctor
    • It’s very difficult to accurately self-diagnose from a Google search
    • You’ll find scary “diagnoses”, think you have them, and scare yourself even more
    • The prevalence numbers of what you find online are skewed, and they’ll scare you
    • If you convince yourself that you have something you read about online, your body can produce those symptoms based solely on the power of your belief.
    • The images you find online can be scary, and once you see them, you can’t “unsee” them.

You’re Not a Doctor!

I know how easy it is to be convinced that you have some serious illness when you get a weird sensation or symptom, but think about it. Unless you have had an exam and tests and a formal diagnosis from an experienced professional, you don’t know. Doctors spend 8 years studying plus several years after that practicing their craft, so they are the ones you should seek counsel from – not Google. Do not scare yourself unnecessarily! Get a professional opinion.

It’s Very Difficult to Accurately Self-diagnose from a Google Search

It seems to me that Google search results always provide the “worst-case scenario”. Google “headache” and the top results are “brain tumor”. Do not rely on Google to diagnose yourself. Besides, most conditions aren’t defined by one symptom. A trained professional takes into account a group of symptoms and uses that to find a true cause. When you Google one symptom, you’re not getting accurate results because there are usually several factors to consider, not just one “symptom”.

You’ll Find Scary “Diagnoses”

True story: I had a long period of time when I wasn’t hungry. I was never hungry. I’d just make myself eat something every day, but I never really wanted to eat. So I googled it. The results I found said I had pancreatic cancer. I was terrified because it says it’s almost always fatal in a very short period of time. I lost sleep. I shook with fear. I hate doctors, but I made an appointment to go to one.

When I got there, I said, “I think I have pancreatic cancer”. she did a blood test then said, “I don’t think you do”. I was convinced she was wrong, so I made an appointment with a different doctor. I went, said the same thing, she did a blood test and said the same thing, “I don’t think you do”. I was still convinced they were wrong, and Google was right. A year later, I still had no appetite, but I wasn’t dead (the internet said I’d be dead in 6 months time). I spent a whole year being terrified I was dying of pancreatic cancer! I mean, I thought about it most of each day, every single day. I bought life insurance. I tried to get my “affairs in order”. I tried doing the Gerson therapy at home (alternative cancer treatment) to “cure” myself.

Now I just think, “Look at the prolonged misery I put myself through”. Do yourself a favor and avoid googling your symptoms!

The Numbers are Skewed

When you read numbers and statistics online when researching your symptoms, you can get very scared. I used to. But you have to put the numbers in perspective. Let’s take my terrifying pancreatic cancer scare as an example. The statistics say, “53,070 adults are diagnosed with it every year in the USA” and “the 5-year survival rate is 7%”. TERRIFYING!!!

However, looked at another way, these same statistics say:

        • 324,065,717 people in the United States are NOT diagnosed with it each year.
          The population of the US in 2016 is 324,118,787 people. 53,070 people is 0.016% of the population. So in actuality, while 53,070 is a lot of people, it is a very small percentage of people. i.e., It’s not very common. If 7% survive 5 years, that seems like no one survives. But 7% of 53,070 is still 3715 people. Almost 4000 people diagnosed with it survive 5 years. 7% seems like almost no one survives. 4000 seems a lot better, though.

I was always terrified when I heard “1 in 3 people will get cancer in their lifetime” (I’ve also read “44% of people will get cancer in their lifetime”). I thought, “I’m doomed!”. If that’s even true, let’s look at the real numbers:

        • 1 out of 3 means (in the US) 2 out of 3 WON’T get cancer. How many won’t get it? Over 216 million!!
        • Just because you get cancer doesn’t mean it’ll kill you. Cancer can be cured, and indeed, there are many people who once had cancer but don’t now. According to the National Cancer Institute, 595,690 people die each year from cancer (that’s 0.183% of the population of the US). And many of them die from the toxic treatment of it, not from the disease itself1, 2.

Don’t be mislead by the numbers.

Your Beliefs Can Create Physical Symptoms

The placebo effect is well-known, and it is accounted for in every drug study that gets done. It is known that up to 1/3 (sometimes more) of people will experience physical effects from taking drugs that have no active ingredients simply because they believe they will. The studies being done on how a person’s beliefs create physical realities is increasing, and more and more studies show the immense power that our beliefs have to create health or disease. (Read Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton or Mind Over Medicine by Lissa Rankin or Love, Medicine, and Miracles by Bernie Siegal for specific scientific studies as well as case studies).

Amazing examples of how beliefs can manifest health or illness is also conveyed in the cases of people with multiple personality disorder. In one personality, a person may be diabetic (and blood tests agree), but when they “switch” personalities, they are no longer diabetic. There are cases where a person is allergic to something in one personality (and breaks out in hives), but is not allergic when displaying another personality. (Read more). There are so many similar cases around the globe. A group of 200 women in Cambodia became blind after being forced to watch their loved ones get murdered, but there was nothing physically wrong with their eyes.

If you Google a symptom then believe you have whatever the search results showed, your beliefs can manifest the affliction’s symptoms physically. But just as negative beliefs can manifest illness, it also works the other way around. Positive beliefs can manifest health.

The fact is that if you suffer from health anxiety, you will be doing yourself an enormous favor if you force yourself to avoid Googling your symptoms. If you have concerns, see a physician. Meanwhile, work on ways to overcome the pattern of anxious thinking (there are lots of tips how to do that on this website).

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