In 2011, webmd.com released to the world a tool which helps hypochondriacs discover horrible diseases and cancers that present with everyday aliments, The Symptom Checker. I’m sure everyone is familiar with it, but if not, know that it’s a program where users can enter symptoms they are having and it will bring up possible reasons for those symptoms. I have used it on many accounts and well. Let’s just say it wasn’t the best decision I ever made, although from a programming point of view, the program is very good.
Before finding out that all of my physical symptoms were from anxiety and not some horrible, deadly affliction, I used it almost nightly trying to figure out what was going on. I constantly went to bed at night believing that I had an ulcer, and brain or stomach cancer. (This definitely wasn’t helping my anxiety.)
Selecting symptoms such as headache, fatigue, and stomach pain gives you about 56 results. These are everyday symptoms and together you wouldn’t think much of them especially if you’d just had Thanksgiving dinner and your whole family is yelling at the TV over some football game. But if you were mildly concerned and looked these up you’d be confronted with phrases like; polyps, Crohn’s disease, Endometriosis, Aortic Aneurysm, Ascaris worms, Colon Cancer, Ovarian Cancer, the list goes on. Suddenly you go from being mildly concerned to on the verge of a panic attack.
With the internet being…well…the internet before seeing a doctor many people turn to this site and similar ones to try to figure out what is causing them to feel sick.
We’re the age of technology, but is this one we really want? Is it causing more problems than it solves? Is it interfering with how doctors operate?
I, for one, would have rather gone to bed not knowing than to go to bed thinking I was going to die of one rare disease or another.
What say you? How do you feel about this subject? Have you used symptom checkers? How did it affect your doctors visit? Let me know!