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Dangers of Self-Diagnosing: Why You Should Always Seek Professional Medical Advice

Medically Approved by Dr. Edward Salko

Table of Contents

man searching internet

Now that instant answers and online information are all the rage, many think they can diagnose themselves based on what they’ve read. However, self-diagnosing can be dangerous. It often leads to inaccurate assessment and can trigger heightened anxiety. These may prompt you to self-medicate. As a result, you may complicate the medical condition, making it more complex and expensive for healthcare providers to treat. Below, we discuss why self-diagnosing is a huge no-no when addressing health problems. 

What Is Self-Diagnosing?

Self-diagnosing is when you rely on online resources, such as search engines and medical websites, to identify and match symptoms to particular medical conditions. In this process, you bypass consulting a healthcare professional. While convenient, the potential pitfalls of self-diagnosing far outweigh the perceived benefits.

5 Reasons You Should Avoid Self-Diagnosing

side view of smiley patient

The perils of self-diagnosing underscore the critical importance of seeking professional medical advice when addressing health concerns. The misconception that you can identify and treat health problems on your own using the wealth of information online often leads to the following harm. 

  1. You risk misinterpreting your symptoms 

The internet contains misinformation, outdated data, and unverified sources. If you lack the necessary skills to screen information, you may end up inadvertently misinterpreting your symptoms, leading to unnecessary anxiety or overlooking potentially serious health issues. 

Self-diagnosis can also lead to cyberchondria, where individuals become excessively anxious about their health after researching symptoms online. That said, it’s crucial to recognize that self-diagnosing is not a substitute for a thorough medical evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional.

  1. You delay the necessary treatments

Self-diagnosis often leads to the avoidance of seeking professional medical advice. As a result, the condition is not properly addressed, and you deprive yourself of immediate treatment that could eliminate or help manage the actual cause of the disease. 

For example, if you have an infection and misdiagnose the condition with something else. You might risk developing sepsis, a life-threatening state of immunity, if you don’t seek immediate medical attention. The same can be said for allergies. If any form of allergy worsens, it could lead to anaphylaxis, another potentially fatal condition caused by the overreaction of the immune system to the allergen.

Did You Know? When consulting your doctor about infections and allergies, you will likely undergo lab tests to help confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests like the complete blood count (CBC) are associated with infections. On the other hand, allergy blood testing may be requested to determine the exact trigger for the reaction. 
  1. You might turn to ineffective or harmful treatments

Getting the wrong treatment can be worse than not getting any treatment at all in that you risk exacerbating the condition. This could lead to further complications, more expensive medication, long-term hospitalization, and even death.

One example is when you contracted an infection. You may have similar symptoms from previous infections, prompting you to take excess medications you had from your previous prescription. However, it turned out that such a drug does not work for your current case.

This could lead to a phenomenon known as antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria and fungi develop the ability to withstand drugs designed to kill them, making infections difficult or impossible to treat. The level of resistance may vary. However, even at its onset, it can already lead to prolonged recovery, organ failure, and limited treatment options, which can have significant implications for medical procedures and chronic diseases.

  1. You may perpetuate misconceptions

Self-diagnosis can perpetuate a false sense of confidence in one’s medical knowledge. This could lead to individuals dismissing the expertise of healthcare professionals and undermining the value of evidence-based medicine. 

In this context, self-diagnosing can contribute to the spread of misinformation and encourage myths about certain medical conditions. By bypassing professional medical advice, individuals may inadvertently perpetuate misconceptions within their social circles, potentially impacting the health decisions of others.

  1. You risk overlooking the underlying health conditions

Medical conditions are sometimes complex, which means the symptoms alone do not underscore the true underlying cause or causes of the disease. For example, hypertension and diabetes may develop at the same time. But the physical signs you experience are almost exclusively pointing to diabetes alone. 

In contrast, self-diagnosing diabetes poses unique risks due to the complex nature of the disease and the potential consequences of mismanagement. A person trying to self-diagnose diabetes may rely on generic symptoms such as increased thirst, frequent urination, and unexplained weight loss without considering other contributing factors.

Misdiagnosing diabetes can have severe repercussions, as the condition requires tailored management strategies based on specific diagnostic criteria and individual health profiles. Individuals may overlook the nuances of diabetes management, leading to uncontrolled blood sugar levels, complications, and compromised health without proper testing and guidance.

Related articles on diabetes:

Why You Should Seek Professional Medical Advice

man speaking with doctor

In the age of self-diagnosis, professional medical advice cannot be substituted. Personalized treatment plans are created based on an individual’s medical history, lifestyle factors, and specific symptoms. Hence, you can’t simply match your symptoms to the general information you read online. 

Moreover, healthcare professionals provide evidence-based recommendations and interpret complex symptoms to ensure the best possible outcomes. In addition to diagnosis and treatment, professional medical advice also includes preventive care, lifestyle advice, and ongoing support.

Engaging with healthcare professionals offers specialized knowledge, advanced diagnostic tools, and the latest medical breakthroughs. This collaborative approach to healthcare empowers individuals to make informed decisions and become more aware of their health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it bad to check your symptoms online?

It’s not wrong to check your symptoms online if you intend to better communicate these symptoms to your doctor. There are cases wherein you might feel or have noticed something but can’t properly describe it. In fact, you can use a reliable online symptom checker that could help you determine your next step, including how to keep in touch with a healthcare provider. 

Do doctors recommend self-diagnosing?

Doctors discourage self-diagnosing because it could cause more harm than good to your health. Self-diagnosing increases your risk of misinterpretation symptoms, inappropriate self-medication, or the initiation of incorrect treatment. 

How do I stop self-diagnosing?

To help you stop self-diagnosing any health condition or symptom, it’s crucial to understand that information published online is generic. Some of them are also unverified and outdated. Health conditions, on the other hand, are personalized. Hence, they need a more tailored assessment. 

The Bottom Line

Obtaining accurate diagnoses requires professional medical advice, medical testing, and reliable sources of medical information. If you engage with healthcare professionals, you can proactively manage your health, access tailored interventions, and make informed decisions that prioritize your well-being.

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