Many Americans are turning to the web to self-diagnose their symptoms without consulting a doctor. Medical experts are now saying this can do more harm than good.
A new study found that most people who use the Web to research their symptoms make their conditions appear worse than it may be.
"This is particularly true when the disease is rare," said study co-author Dengfeng Yan, a doctoral student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. "That is, given the same set of symptoms, people will overestimate their own likelihood of getting such rare (often serious) diseases than that of other people."
Yan and co-researcher Jaideep Sengupta conducted a total of six experiments by distributing information to nearly 250 college students about the flu, HIV, osteoporosis, and breast cancer.
In one experiment, researchers provided students information about the flu and asked them to imagine if they were experiencing symptoms like a cough, fever, running nose, and headache. They then asked the students to identify whether their symptoms matched a “regular” flu or were related to the feared epidemic of the time, H1N1 also known as the swine flu. Following this exercise, researchers continued by asking how the students would diagnose someone else with the same symptoms.
Researchers found that students were more likely to diagnose themselves with the worst case, the H1N1 flu in comparison to when they diagnosed others.
Yan accounted the difference in the diagnosis perspective to psychological distance. He suggested that when diagnosing others, people tend to rely on broader statistics rather than the specific symptoms the individual may be experiencing.
"Consumers often fear the worst when it comes to their own health, while maintaining a calm objectivity with regard to others," Yan said.
Researchers believe that people who self-diagnosis are likely to mistaken their symptoms for worst case scenarios which can have dangerous effects. They said it can lead to unnecessary stress and medical expenses.
Yan and Sengupta aren’t the only ones who find self-diagnosis via the Web risky. Dr. Peter Galier, an internal medicine specialist at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center believes it’s a part of human nature for people to overestimate the health issues for themselves and family members.
Galier explained that many people who rely on the Web rather than a doctor about their symptoms don’t realize the risk of erroneous information.
"When people are able to access a lot of information that isn't filtered, and they don't have expertise in the field, they don't know how to prioritize the information," Galier said.
Galier provided an example of a healthy young man who may experience chest pain after drinking a cold soda. He believes that the man could easily turn to the Internet and identify his symptom as a sign of a heart attack. However, he does not recognize the essentials of missing information such as his age and medical history.
"Chest pain in a 55-year-old guy is looked at much differently than in a 25-year-old guy," he said.
Study researchers recommended that people should primarily see a doctor for their symptoms.
''The advantage of seeing a real doctor isn't just because he or she is an expert," he said. "It's also that they aren't you."
They believe that an objective diagnosis from a doctor eliminates the emotional stress that often comes with self-diagnosis. Yan suggested disclosing the situation to colleagues to ease the panic and stress surrounding their symptoms.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
26 photos Launch gallery
1. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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2. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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3. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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4. Jus haaaanngin out
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5. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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6. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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7. new new
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8. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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9. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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10. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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12. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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13. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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14. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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15. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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16. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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17. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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18. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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20. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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21. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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22. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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23. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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24. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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25. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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26. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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