WebMD Told Me I Have Cancer
Hi! This is my first blog post, so I wanted to draw from personal experience to elaborate on an interesting article published last May in Psychology Today magazine. It was featured on the PT website today, and I found that very ironic considering my “near death” experience that I “had” this weekend.
Admittedly, I can be a bit of a drama queen. So this weekend, when I had a stomachache that was slightly more painful than the average ailment, I immediately thought I was having an ulcer. I called my mom and told her that I was unsure I would finish this semester alive because this ulcer would kill me. She responded, “You probably just have to go to the bathroom.” And that was the end of the conversation.
My first reaction was anger at her belittlement of my life-threatening situation. I was seriously having an ulcer…right? I went on WebMD to use their Symptom Checker, and that told me I could have anything from a common cold to pancreatic cancer. Today when I was browsing through Psychology Today, I saw the article entitled “The Dangers of Self-Diagnosis” by Dr. Srini Pillay, author of four medical books. Reading through it, I realized that I was the victim of every component of his argument. I felt like was talking to me. I, like most people (I hope), assumed I could “surmise what is going on with themselves may miss the nuances of diagnosis.” Basically, having an ulcer could be a diagnosis for my stomachache, but it is not the only option. He goes on to write that, even though we like to think that we know ourselves better than anyone else does, we always “need a mirror to see ourselves more clearly.” I was clouded by the illusion of having a serious illness, and my mom was able to show me that I most likely was not having an ulcer. Lastly, Dr. Pillay writes that, “Another danger of self-diagnosis is that you may think that there is more wrong with you than there actually is.” In my particular case, this is also true.
Here is where it gets interesting. Two years ago, my mom was diagnosed with sleep apnea. Since her diagnosis, she has been telling absolutely everyone that complains of a sleep issue that they have sleep apnea. A lot of the people that she diagnoses, however, have turned out to have sleep apnea (including my grandfather). While this is not technically “self-diagnosis,” my mom is not a doctor and can only hypothesize as to whether someone really has sleep apnea or not.
What do you think? Are you a victim of self-diagnosis? Can we diagnosis our friends and family? Should people always go see a doctor when they think something is wrong with them? What do you think about people using website to help self-diagnose?
Have a good night! 🙂