Dangers of Online Self-Diagnosis

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

It wasn’t that long ago that whenever people felt ill, experienced unusual symptoms, or noticed physical or mental abnormalities, they used their health insurance to visit the local doctor’s office. With the rise of the Internet, websites, social media, and blogging, however, more and more people have been consulting their computers for medical advice and self-diagnoses instead of their doctors.

According to the Pew Research Center, 59% of U.S. adults say they use the Internet to research and gather health information. Approximately 35% of those adults end up using the information they find to diagnose themselves. This new wave of so-called self-diagnosers has inspired a new phenomenon: cyberchondria, in which people have become obsessed and overwhelmingly concerned with identifying their own illness and maladies.

While self-diagnosing may seem like a relatively harmless practice, putting too much faith in the medical wisdom of a computer instead of hospitals and health insurance companies can end up putting your emotional and physical well-being in jeopardy, according to Psychology Today. What’s more, Health magazine reports that most people who use the Internet to diagnose themselves end up misdiagnosing their symptoms and illnesses.

What Does This All Mean?

For years, uninsured and poorly-insured individuals have avoided seeking medical help to avoid spending money they don’t have; however, with the recently-passed Affordable Health Care Act, health insurance will be reformed over the next few years to be more reasonably priced and attainable. With this new law, insurance companies will be held to higher standards, making their policies more affordable and reasonable for small business owners, young adults, and individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), COBRA, and private policies will still be offered in the years to come; though their procedures may revise and evolve. So with all these health insurance programs available at their fingertips, why are individuals using their computers instead of their doctors?

According to Forbes, more and more people are developing a relatively new addiction called Internet-Use Disorder, in which people have a preoccupation with the Internet for social interaction at the expense of both friends and professionals, including hospitals and health insurance entities.

Using the computer to diagnose oneself puts people in danger of overlooking serious illnesses, thinking there is more wrong with them than there really is, utilizing untrustworthy, biased medical websites and blogs, and undermining the authorities and roles of doctors, hospitals, and second opinions. Groups that are more likely to turn to the Internet instead of medical professionals include women, those who earn more than $75,000 a year, young adults, Caucasians, and those who have college or advanced degrees.

In an attempt to receive a free diagnosis and avoid alarming news, many have chosen not to use their health insurance. Not only is this practice unnecessary, especially with the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act, it can cause you to harm yourself emotionally and physically, through overlooking serious illnesses, using ineffective home remedies, and stressing over illnesses that don’t even exist.

If you notice abnormalities or feel under the weather, it’s best to use your insurance and book an appointment with doctors or visit a walk-in clinic to determine what’s going on. Computers are wonderful inventions, but just remember: they haven’t attended medical school.

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