Is Self-Diagnosis Really Self-Harm?
NHS Direct was launched in March 1998, seemingly in answer to the country wide complaints about the health service, GP’s lack of time and other issues. It was designed to cut down on the unnecessary GP appointments about less serious medical conditions and to provide a quicker answer when a minor medical emergency strikes, so as to avoid panicked trips to the A&E department. For example, instead of making an embarrassing trip to the doctors about what was strongly suspected to be thrush, you could look up the symptoms and cures online and perhaps pop to the shop for some cream. NHS Direct was decommissioned as of 31st March 2014 and replaced by NHS Choices.
But why are the public using these services more? Are we simply bored on our lunch breaks or seriously worrying about the physiological effects of stress? Having experienced the disappointing service quite often on offer at my former doctors surgery, I realise that it can be quite frustrating booking appointment after appointment hoping to be taken seriously.
The trouble is, visiting your GP can be quite like playing Cluedo on your own; how will you discover what your symptoms add up to when no one but you is interested in discovering if it is indeed the butler in the kitchen with a dagger?
These days, people often use websites such as WebMD because they have experienced their GP busily typing notes instead of looking and listening, and quite frankly can’t afford to take more time off from work to go to the doctors.
However, there is no denying it, after checking symptoms a couple of times, it’s even more tempting to do another quick search, relying on this information instead of going to see the doctors or another health care professional.
According to the Daily Mail, searches for ‘stress related illnesses’ have increased by 72%; perhaps the NHS and the government should be looking into why people that could be seriously ill are turning to the internet for reassurance, rather than a qualified doctor.
The internet can be a great tool for checking symptoms before making a doctors appointment based on a well-researched hunch. However, with the current one man Cluedo game situation, many are using these websites to self-diagnose. While symptoms can be a great indicators of illness, checking off one or several symptoms on the list does not always equal a diagnosis in the real world, meaning many of those who have self-diagnosed could now worry that they have illnesses that they actually don’t have.
What do you think? Are you harming yourself by looking up symptoms or avoiding using an inadequate mental health service?