Self-Diagnosing Psychological and Medical Disease and Conditions Can Be Harmful

There are hundreds of diseases and conditions that people can come down with. It would be impossible for the average person to know all the conditions and all the ways of doing the diagnostic testing for the various diseases and conditions. Many times the symptoms can be similar from one condition to another. In days gone by, people used to wait for their doctor visit before knowing what disease or condition they had. People relied solely upon the doctor’s expert knowledge. Some people would take the time to go the library and look up different conditions if they felt they might have that condition. However, this was very time consuming and sometimes the person really did not know where to start.

Today, the web has made it extremely easy for people to look up their symptoms and check if they have the disease or condition they suspect, or if they might be experiencing the symptoms of a disease or condition they may never have heard of. If you go to the Mayo clinic, one of the best medical facilities in the the world, you will find that they have a symptom checker. Nothing could be made easier. There are other sites on the web which provide the same service.

Even though these symptom checkers are very useful for some basic information about certain diseases or conditions, they cannot replace, nor are they meant to replace, a clinical evaluation and diagnosis from a qualified medical doctor, psychiatrist, or clinical psychologist. According to Srini Pillay, M.D ., when you self-diagnose, “you are essentially assuming that you know the subtleties that a diagnosis constitutes. This can be very dangerous.” People tend to alarm themselves by over-diagnosing a condition. For example, a person with mood swings may think they have bi polar disorder, schizophrenia, general anxiety disorder, depression and so on. Only a trained clinician can determine what condition is present using diagnostic tools, consultations, family history, lifestyle determinants and so on. The same can be said for medical conditions. Individuals experiencing chest pain may think they are having a heart attack when all they have is stress or indigestion. The opposite can also ring true. A person experiencing chest pains might look up on the net and find information for indigestion and not think to check further when in fact they are having a heart attack. Sometimes a psychological self-diagnosis of panic disorder might miss a medical condition such as hyperthyroidism.

When you self-diagnose you may also self-medicate, for example taking over-the-counter medication for heartburn, when you have a more serious condition called gastrointestinal acid reflux disorder (GERD). Taking the wrong medication can be dangerous as it may be totally ineffective or cause irreversible damage.

Though it is good to have some basic information you found on the net for the symptoms you are experiencing, discussion the information you have found with your doctor and let him or her make a qualified diagnosis.


Professional experience as a nurse