With the vast amount of information available on the internet, more people turn to online resources when they feel unwell. Sometimes, this knowledge can help guide conversations with providers. However, online research often leads people to worst-case scenarios, resulting in an increase in unnecessary stress.
Why Do We Self-Diagnose?
When something changes in our mental or physical health, our natural instinct is to want to understand what is going on. This means we turn to the resources and knowledge we have. Online symptom checkers allow you to check off anything that has changed related to your health, and they will give you a list of potential diagnoses. More often than not, these lists are much more severe than what is most likely the case. A headache that won’t go away could be a sign of dehydration, but your online resources might convince you that you have cancer. It’s understandable to want to have an explanation for what you’re experiencing, but use these tools with caution.
Self-Diagnosis and Mental Health
According to the Pew Research Center, 35% of U.S. adults reported they went online to research potential medical conditions they or someone else might have. For those with existing mental health or substance use disorders, the effects of this knowledge can be detrimental. Concern about a potential diagnosis can result in:
- Increased stress and anxiety
- Worsened depression
- Fixation on symptoms
- Increased risk of relapse
Responsibly Using Online Health Information
Having health information on-demand can be beneficial when used responsibly. If you are concerned about the symptoms you are experiencing, these tips can help guide your online research.
- Utilize Reputable Sources: As a general rule, websites that end in .edu or .gov have more research-backed information. When looking for trustworthy sources, start with these types of websites. Studies or articles written by medical professionals provide evidence-based content to help you learn about different conditions.
- Use Research to Inform Conversations: One of the biggest dangers of self-diagnosis is that people are convinced they have a medical issue prior to talking with a provider. Instead of using this information to determine what disease you have, bring the research you have done to your provider to discuss. Go into your appointment with questions and be willing to listen.
- Learn About Your Condition: If you have recently been diagnosed with a medical or mental health condition, online resources can help you gain a better understanding of what is going on. Medical providers may not have the time to explain every detail. Outside research from reputable sources can help answer some of your questions or provide you with talking points for your next appointment.
Managing Health-Related Stress in Recovery
Stressful situations are difficult to manage, especially for those with addictions. Adequate coping skills and a supportive environment can help you maintain sobriety while navigating unknown health conditions. If you’ve noticed that times of stress are preventing you from staying on the path to recovery, it may be time to seek more intensive help. At Hope by the Sea, we offer residential treatment programs for people of all ages and backgrounds. Our gender-specific programs provide a supportive environment for you to fully focus on treatment. We also offer faith-based and outpatient addiction treatment options. If you need more support coping with medical or other outside stressors in recovery, contact our admissions team today.