Symptoms of Foolishness

Have you ever self-diagnosed?

In today’s world we have something that the people of previous generations could never have even fathomed: access to endless amounts of information from all over the planet, right at our fingertips at any given time. With just a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone, someone can instantly look up facts and figures, learn how to fix an appliance, check out photos and videos being sent to us from outer space, and much much more. We are awash in a sea of information, if only we’re willing to dive in.

But of course, sometimes (*ahem* most of the time) we use this power for silly things, and one such silly thing is the Googling of symptoms.

I’m pretty sure everyone with access to the internet has used Google to try to diagnose themselves at some point or another. It’s just too tempting. You have this problem that has been plaguing you, but you don’t want to go to the doctor because it’s difficult to get in, or you’re embarrassed to talk about it, or you just plain hate doctors, so you load up Google and you start typing in symptoms.

“Why do I wheeze so much at night?”

“What are the black marks on my toenails?”

“Why am I so tired all the time?”

It usually starts as a single complaint, but quickly snowballs into hypochondria as the screen flashes lists of conditions and their possible symptoms at you. You start with a concern about your frequent headaches, and suddenly you’re thinking, “Why yes, actually, I DO have pale skin, brittle nails, occasional nausea, achy joints, and regular heartburn”. Then next thing you know you’ve diagnosed yourself with everything from restless leg syndrome to stage four cancer and you’re two breaths away from a full-scale panic attack.

This very astute definition courtesy of

Of course, the problem is that people are very susceptible to suggestion. You’d never have complained about achy joints until you read the symptom and started imagining that you’re this poor soul who is in constant pain and nobody understands, dammit. We just have this way of imagining that we’ve had symptoms that we never really had if they fall neatly into a list that helps explain the one thing we were actually curious about.

Why do I bring this up? Well, I’ve been a pretty bad self-diagnose-junkie for years. I know enough to know when I’m being foolish, but I still can’t help myself sometimes, and all of a sudden I’m convinced that I have Crohn’s Disease or Fibromyalgia, or whatever else explains the complaint-of-the-day. Luckily I’m not the kind of person to leap on a bandwagon and start trying to change my entire lifestyle according to my latest diagnosis, but I have definitely brought enough concerns to my doctor for him to probably start wondering if I’m a little nuts.

But if your guts twisted and turned for no reason at random times of day and sent you running to the bathroom in a mad panic, wouldn’t you be scouring the information highway for explanations? ^_~

So how about it? Have you ever self-diagnosed? Come on, don’t lie…you’ve Googled a symptom or two. Did you bring your concerns to your doctor, and if so, did they lead to anything? Please share!

4 thoughts on “Symptoms of Foolishness

  1. It hasn’t always led to to this; one time in particular looking it up actually convinced me that I had been worrying too much and it wasn’t anything serious.

    But I do have the “susceptible to suggestion” problem. Sometimes I remember that and try to avoid looking things up on my own, but not always.
    It’s also what makes me dislike advertisements for medication (particularly since all of them are “ten seconds about what it does and 50 seconds listing side effects”).

    • Oh my god, medicine ads…they freak me out. “Take this medicine for your allergies, but oh, by the way, you might experience nausea, vomiting, ulcers, nasal bleeding, internal bleeding, or DEATH.” Exaggeration, of course, but not by much! lol

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