WebMD offers bad diagnoses, makes hypochondriacs of many

In 2005 a new virtual plague hit our society. It promised to offer false despair and turn average Americans into walking ailments. I am talking, of course, about the Web site WebMD.com.

In theory, allowing people to check out possible causes for why they feel ill before going to a doctor to wait for hours with other diseased persons, is good. There’s just one problem with that. Most people are not even shade-tree doctors, let alone fully-licensed, practicing medical experts.

There is a reason people go to school for eight years to become a doctor, then a residency, and then are constantly learning to keep up with their complex field; it is not easy. Having the ability to type and an Internet connection does not give anyone merit to think they can accurately diagnose themselves out of 20-plus possible ailments and injuries.

My biggest beef with WebMD is the diagnoses for typical symptoms are incredibly over the top. When checking out a possible cause for a throbbing headache, the top answer from WebMD is possibly having a brain aneurysm. For those with “impaired social skills,” you’re not just shy. You probably have schizophrenia, an aneurysm or even epilepsy. Next time you feel nauseous, don’t just ignore it and take a nap because you probably have kidney failure, carbon monoxide poisoning or maybe you forgot you overdosed on drugs.

Even some of the suggested symptoms offered on the site are just plain ludicrous. Choking is actually a symptom to check on. I don’t know, because I’m not a real doctor, but if you or someone with you is choking, please do not take the time to look on WebMD to see what you should do.

As though people were not hypochondriacs already, now they have this “tool” at their disposal to keep them constantly fearing that everything out of the ordinary with their bodies is actually some dormant plague, hell bent on destroying them. Well in reality, nine times out of 10, your head hurting is just a headache. Your upset tummy is just indigestion, or a hangover maybe, not an ulcer.

Many secretly want their illness to actually be something, that way they don’t feel like a wuss over nothing. I’m just as guilty of this as everyone else. But not wanting to be a whiner for nothing is no reason to think because WebMD told you that you have diabetes or heart disease, that you actually have a serious problem.

As earlier stated, WebMD is a good idea, but only in theory. Waiting forever at the doctor’s office just to find out your symptoms equate to nothing at all is a pain, so checking it out before is handy. But the site is so often abused by people, and this ends up hurting the site’s credibility, at least in the eyes of people don’t buy into the doomsday-esque illnesses hurled down from the site.

Next time you’re feeling “not that hot,” and you feel that urge to hit up WebMD for some bad news, remember you are not an actual doctor, and therefore not capable of actually diagnosing yourself. More often than not, the only symptom you should actually be looking up is a case of hypochondria.

Respond to Josh at [email protected]