Secret signs of anxiety part four: Today’s topics: Over-reliance on Doctor Google
Is my headache a brain tumour? What does this dot on my skin mean? I feel funny today… is this feeling normal for someone age? How do I check without going to the doctor? Doctor Google is free and open 24 hours!
In today’s world we seem to be hearing more and more about health, diet, dying young and disease. Part and parcel of this abundance of bad news is the fact that the world of how we get information has changed immensely. With the dawn of the internet it seems that any practical question we might have can be answered by our computer or handheld device.
We are also living in a time where the internet makes us more aware of events occurring within our wider social circle. Life events, holidays but also illnesses. The interconnectivity of the world means that we know when those around get sick and pass away. We commiserate as an online community becoming hyper aware of the mortality of life.
Bring into this that rising obesity rates, processed food and general ill health are bringing higher levels of cancer, diabetes and over all disease. We could be forgiven for having an extra eye on our health. However, given all this technology and our ability to search information at the touch of our fingertips when does convenience start to do us more harm than good.
Now a-days we mightn’t cook a meal, make a purchase or even attend a concert without having first checked out online more information. So logically speaking the same goes for if we notice something is wrong with our health. Lying in bed we can google what ails us or even check our mildest symptom.
Whether that is checking to see what a lump on our skin means, or more about that kind of cough or phlegm. It’s human nature to try and quench our thirst for knowledge so we check. This has probably eased many a mother worries or saved people a trip to the doctor. Though what does it mean if we find ourselves doing it more and more?
Primarily it must be mentioned that any symptom typed into google will offer every kind of disorder that it simply could be. Remember that a head ache can have thousands of causes and very likely the first google result we get is false.
Anxiety breaths on cognitive distortions and mis-appraisal of danger. If I have a headache and someone tells me that the 5 most likely causes of headache are dehydration, hay fever, hangovers, stress and BRAIN TUMOURS. It can be guaranteed my attention is going to be drawn to the most severe possibility.
By filtering and catastrophic thinking our minds will instantly be drawn to the worse google results which can be endless. When checking up symptoms on google becomes an anxiety linked compulsion that is difficult to control, it may be good to wonder is this health anxiety?
Health Anxiety/Panic Attacks and Doctor Google:
Although under the umbrella of general anxiety, health anxiety can be its own condition if left to develop. Health anxiety is the repeated fear and suspicion that we are sick or dying that causes a feeling of anxiety and has an impact on our behaviour.
It can become a dangerous habit for those with health anxiety to be checking symptoms online or going to the doctor for their every ailments. For them the checking of google can become a form of a safety behaviour.
In our last blog on double checking we spoke about safety behaviours and their relationship to anxiety. The safety behaviour makes us feel safe in the short term, by telling us more about the symptom. Yet in the long-term safety behaviours make our anxiety cycle stronger. Every time we google symptoms compulsively we are reinforcing the idea that there is something wrong with us and we must check into it.
A key component of panic attacks is also the interpretation of the physical symptoms. By interpreting the symptoms as we are in fact dying we or having a heart attack make the panic attack worse. Google searching what every tick of our heart means makes this symptom cycle also more extreme.
We can end up not doing exercise, staying in doors or avoiding leaving the house because we googled that we maybe having a heart attack. And so the anxiety cycle grows. Panic attacks themselves thrive on our sense that something physical going is majorly wrong. Whether that’s I’m going to faint or I’m having a heart attack. Google searching these symptoms endlessly keeps us trapped in the cycle.
At the worse end of this spectrum a person can develop to the level of a hypochondriac who fears even the most benign symptom.
If the reader see ourselves in this sign of anxiety or over consulting Doctor Google there’s no need to panic. Just be curious and stop and ask is this something I was aware of and what may be going on.
Safety behaviours, engrained anxiety and distorted thinking are the structures that hold anxiety in place. With self-awareness, compassion and knowledge it is possible to make the change!
Anxiety Ireland has a team of specialists working across Ireland who combined have helped thousands of people to fight back from anxiety and reclaim their lives.
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Anxiety is a merry-go-round, going no where fast, it’s ok to step off.
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