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Author Topic: Things to keep in mind when Googling  (Read 82317 times)

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Offline worrygirl789

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Re: Things to keep in mind when Googling
« Reply #210 on: February 14, 2014, 04:45:46 AM »
Everytime i start to google about health related issues i get so much anxiety and i usually cry myself to sleep i would really like to stop worrying over what google said but i need help. :traurig001:
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Offline Wendy13

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Re: Things to keep in mind when Googling
« Reply #211 on: February 14, 2014, 03:39:06 PM »
I am the worst person for googling symptoms and its becoming a everyday thing like a habit. Every little pain and ache I am googling, I know I need to stop it but I really cannot help it. I have not got OCD with touching my lymph nodes in my neck, one has always been more 'swollen' than the other due to previous infections like multiple tonsillitis, perforated eardrums, kidney infection, water infection etc, but now I cannot stop touching it!
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Offline servo75

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Re: Things to keep in mind when Googling
« Reply #212 on: March 08, 2014, 11:57:35 PM »
You have described my experience to a "T".  Oh and by the way, I happen to have a degree in Statistics and I ditto all you said about mean and average, etc.  It's like you hear that 1/2 of people will get cancer of some sort - but I think that that includes much older people who are never diagnosed but die of something else in the meantime, and possibly even the underlying cause of "natural causes" deaths.

Everyone here is guilty of it, I think, and me as much as anyone! In fact, Googling symptoms seems to be a common thread in 90% of all posts here.

As a disclaimer, I am NOT endorsing Googling. In fact, I think it is the WORST thing you can do for yourself. As long as you are continuously Googling your "symptoms," you will be caught in the HA trap. What I have listed below are general guidelines for interpreting information of all kinds, but I wanted to tweak them so they focus on hypochondria to really display how misleading Google can be.


1. If you are serious about getting better, but are unable to stop yourself from Googling, it might be worth (strongly) considering blocking medical websites on your browser.
Overcoming compulsions can be really, really hard by willpower alone. This is not to say that those with compulsions are not strong willed, but rather these thoughts can be as irrational and overpowering as anything. While we do have a choice in the matter of whether or not to indulge a compulsion, no one chooses to have them. It is not anyone's fault if they find it difficult to ignore compulsions- if it was, there really would be no problem in the first place! As such, it might be really helpful to block the medical websites entirely (i.e. WebMD, Wrong Diagnosis, Mayo Clinic, and so on). Even better, get a spouse, family member or friend to block these sites with a password that you have no access to. It will be very difficult at first to go without the "reassurance" that these websites can provide... in fact, it can feel like real withdrawal!... but it is a very effective way to cut down on your Googling. The following are some suggestions I found for blocking websites in the various browsers:

Firefox: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3145
Internet Explorer: http://www.wikihow.com/Block-a-Website-in-Internet-Explorer-7
Safari: http://www.ehow.com/how_4928304_block-websites-safari.html


2. Learn how to correctly interpret statistics!
Quote
Lies, damn lies and statistics.
- Mark Twain
This isn't exactly something that a university level stats class can teach you (I should know.. I've been forced to take many a stats class for my degree.  :sick0002:) It's very important to keep your critical thinking skills intact when interpreting statistics... particularly when "diagnosing" yourself with a disease based on statistics. A big aspect of health anxiety is that we focus on the 0.0001% chance of having x disease, versus the 99.9999% chance that we don't have it. I'm not going to get into the difference between incidence and risk, but make sure you ask yourself the following questions when reading statistics:
"If x/100,000 people per year are diagnosed with this disease, does this include those with a genetic predisposition to the disease?" (If so, your "chances" are considerably lower if you have no genetic disposition.)
"Is this a congental disease?" (Is it present from birth? In which case, you would already know if you had this.)
"Am I taking all risk factors into account?" (For example, if a main risk factor for disease x is sucking on rocks, and you do not suck on rocks, your chances also are lower. The same goes for age, smoking, etc.)
"What is the mean age for this disease?" (For example, if you think you have pancreatic cancer at age 30 and the average age for this disease is age 75 (a number I just made up), the x/100,000 people will generally be clustered around age 75. This does not mean that this figure includes 30 year-olds. It is more likely that the age spread is 65-85.)

3. There is a difference between "mean" and "average."
Many people believe that the terms "mean" and "average" are interchangeable, especially when dealing with statistics. However, this isn't so: mean is a very specific mathematical term, whereas "average" (in math) , means "a number that typifies a set of numbers of which it is a function." In other words, the average of a data set can refer to the mean, median OR mode.

The median is the middle value in a distribution, above and below which lie an equal number of values.
The mean is a number that typifies a set of numbers, such as the average value of a set of numbers.
The mode is the value or item occurring most frequently in a series of observations or data. 

So, using these definitions, if a survey of a disease says the ages of people with disease x are {56, 70, 82, 75, 75, 63, 36, 78, 89} then...
The median is 75: {36, 56, 63, 70, 75, 75, 78, 82, 89}
The mean is 69.3 (sum of numbers/number of numbers = 624/9 = 69.3)
The mode is 75.

So, when an article is reporting the "average" of something, they could be choosing any of these figures. Do not take stats at face value!! Everyone loves a good statistic, and will often take them as fact, but please realize that they can be incredibly deceiving. However, this is NOT to say that I'm trying to infer that the figure stating your 0.0001 chance of getting a disease is flawed: 0.0001 does not suddenly jump to 75% or something, no matter what definition of "average" the author is using.


4. You cannot catch a disease just by reading about it.
My dad says this to me a lot, and at first, I thought it was a completely ridiculous statement: obviously, reading WebMD isn't going to spontaneously give you a blood clot in your leg. However, the more I thought about it and examined my own thinking patterns, the more I realized how much truth there is to this. How often has it happened to you that you'll be "innocently" searching something like sneezing (and I hope you'll realize how silly it is to Google sneezing in the first place), thinking you perhaps have a cold or something, when you see that sneezing is a sign of the very rare but rather serious Writhing Bogey disease. One of the first thoughts to pop up might be "Oh my God, I didn't even think of Writhing Bogey... but I am sneezing... And I have blue eyes! That's a symptom of it too! And now I'm finding it tough to breathe... This must mean that I have it!" As the days go on, you get more and more symptoms of Writing Bogey, until you are a total mess and have to rush off to the doctor to have your diagnosis confirmed.

What's wrong with this picture? The thing that was originally bugging you- sneezing- is now accompanied by a ton of other things that suspiciously didn't appear until after you read about Writhing Bogey. In other words, you seem to have "caught" the symptoms from the article! Here's news for you: this is called "somatization" or "conversion."

Quote
Individuals with somatization disorder suffer from a number of vague physical symptoms, involving at least four different physical functions or parts of the body. The physical symptoms that characterize somatization disorder cannot be attributed to medical conditions or to the use of drugs, and individuals with somatization disorder often undergo numerous medical tests (with negative results) before the psychological cause of their distress is identified. They often use impressionistic and colorful language to describe their symptoms, describing burning sensations, pains that move from place to place, strange tastes on the tongue, tingling, or tremors. While many symptoms resemble those associated with genuine diseases, some of the symptoms reported by people with somatization disorder are not. The individual usually visits many different physicians, but the information they provide about the patient's symptoms can be inconsistent. It is important to note that while the physical symptoms of somatization disorder frequently lack medical explanations, they are not intentionally fabricated. The typical person with somatization disorder has suffered from physical pain, discomfort, and dysfunction for an extended period of time and consulted several doctors; they are hopeful that they one can be found who can identify the cause of their illness and provide relief.

Now, doesn't that sound way closer to your behavior than Writhing Bogey or any other awful disease? Another thing to keep in mind: WrongDiagnosis is evil. I looked up sneezing: 482 causes. None of them Writhing Bogey, but there are many awful things there, including "acute upper respiratory infection." However, there is also "pepper ingestion" and bird allergy, so there you go. WrongDiagnosis is one of the most harmful sites out there, in my opinion.


5. The media loves a good horror story.
This doesn't take much explanation- the media will always report bad things. This is just because "12 people die of swine flu!" is a way catchier headline than "3,456,293 did not die of swine flu!" There is also always a "disease-du-jour"- for a while it was swine flu, SARS, mad cow... Basically, you have to remember that the media is into sensationalism. Sensationalism sells papers!  Because of this, they are always going to report the worst case scenario, and widespread panic is encouraged.


6. Some more things to remember about statistics.
Let's say that your "chances" of having a disease are 4/100,000. This translates to 1/25,000, or 0.00001%. Now, let's imagine that you somehow got some shady insider info (that you knew was reputable beyond a doubt) that says there is a lottery coming up, and if you choose these five numbers, your chances of winning will be 99.99999%. If you do not immediately go to the bank and withdraw every last penny you have to bet on this lottery, you are certifiably insane. :laugh3: This is the same situation as you having the aforementioned disease.

"Oh, but Shrublet! Those 4 people weren't expecting to be diagnosed with Writhing Bogey, and they are no more unlucky than anyone else! What dictates me as being more lucky than those 4?" Well, dear patient, luck often has nothing to do with it. Those 4 people could very well have a genetic predisposition, have had it since birth, or did any number of silly things that could lead to having the disease. Oftentimes, what exactly caused those 4 people to have it, no one knows. However, if for some reason, this disease happens totally randomly and indiscriminately, well... your chances are still 99.99999% of NOT having it! And I return again to my lottery analogy.

I also highly recommend AnxiousSteve's post on "Statistical Therapy."  ;D It has helped me in the past greatly, and puts things in perspective. For fear of making this post too long, I will link it here: http://www.anxietyzone.com/index.php?action=printpage;topic=11689.0


7. Your intuition is probably pretty screwed up. Unless you have your M.D. degree, chances are your "diagnoses" are quite flawed. (And watching House is not equivalent to a medical degree!)
So often, we find ourselves saying, "Sure, I know all the other hundreds of times I've diagnosed myself, it turned out to be nothing. But I KNOW something is wrong this time! It just feels different! I can FEEL that it's something bad!"

I'll use myself as an example here. In the past, I have KNOWN that I have had the following diseases (this is just a small selection: brain tumor, brain aneurysm, heart attack, heart problems, artery disease, blood clot in leg, blood clot in neck, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, leukemia... need I say more? For many of these, I was so sure that I had it that I have gone to the ER for it in hysterics. I have also insisted on numerous tests, disbelieved (often several) doctors' opinions, and got massively depressed because I knew that my time was up. I want to emphasize that I KNEW, beyond a doubt, that I had the disease at the time. I could feel it.

And you know what? Turns out I didn't. Obviously my track record is not that great. A lot of us tend to distrust doctors because our intuition tells us that something is really wrong this time, and we know our bodies better than anyone else, right? WRONG! Hypochondriacs are hypervigilant, which means that while the symptoms may be real, we tend to magnify any tiny ache or pain. We also have this excellent talent to actually manifest NEW symptoms. So, take some time to think about all the things you KNEW you had in the past. Did you end up having them? Probably not. That means your diagnosing skills are 0 for x.  :yes: Hmm... I sure wouldn't let you diagnose ME.

Another small thing: doctors go to medical school for a long, long, LONG time (as my med student friends continuously inform me). There is a big difference between ten years of med school and reading about something on the internet for a few days. Doctors have also probably seen multiple instances of the disease you're worrying about; that is, they have a frame of reference for what it LOOKS like. While I was worrying about leukemia, I spoke to a close friend of my fiance's that actually HAD leukemia (he's in remission now! YAY!). He's also met tons of people that have it, as well. He told me what the disease REALLY looks and feels like and, let me tell you, it's way way WAY different than what many of the internet medical sites say.



Anyways. Just my two cents (though at that length, I'd estimate it to be more like $4.35). I am still working to get over HA permanently and have good days and bad days, but I find keeping these things in mind really helps.  :yes: I hope it manages to help someone else one day.
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Offline Reallyworried93

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Re: Things to keep in mind when Googling
« Reply #213 on: March 09, 2014, 01:59:47 PM »
7. Your intuition is probably pretty screwed up. Unless you have your M.D. degree, chances are your "diagnoses" are quite flawed. (And watching House is not equivalent to a medical degree!)
So often, we find ourselves saying, "Sure, I know all the other hundreds of times I've diagnosed myself, it turned out to be nothing. But I KNOW something is wrong this time! It just feels different! I can FEEL that it's something bad!"

I'll use myself as an example here. In the past, I have KNOWN that I have had the following diseases (this is just a small selection: brain tumor, brain aneurysm, heart attack, heart problems, artery disease, blood clot in leg, blood clot in neck, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, leukemia... need I say more? For many of these, I was so sure that I had it that I have gone to the ER for it in hysterics. I have also insisted on numerous tests, disbelieved (often several) doctors' opinions, and got massively depressed because I knew that my time was up. I want to emphasize that I KNEW, beyond a doubt, that I had the disease at the time. I could feel it.

And you know what? Turns out I didn't. Obviously my track record is not that great. A lot of us tend to distrust doctors because our intuition tells us that something is really wrong this time, and we know our bodies better than anyone else, right? WRONG! Hypochondriacs are hypervigilant, which means that while the symptoms may be real, we tend to magnify any tiny ache or pain. We also have this excellent talent to actually manifest NEW symptoms. So, take some time to think about all the things you KNEW you had in the past. Did you end up having them? Probably not. That means your diagnosing skills are 0 for x.  :yes: Hmm... I sure wouldn't let you diagnose ME.

Another small thing: doctors go to medical school for a long, long, LONG time (as my med student friends continuously inform me). There is a big difference between ten years of med school and reading about something on the internet for a few days. Doctors have also probably seen multiple instances of the disease you're worrying about; that is, they have a frame of reference for what it LOOKS like. While I was worrying about leukemia, I spoke to a close friend of my fiance's that actually HAD leukemia (he's in remission now! YAY!). He's also met tons of people that have it, as well. He told me what the disease REALLY looks and feels like and, let me tell you, it's way way WAY different than what many of the internet medical sites say.



This is literally me! Loved this post.
 :spineyes:
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Offline AmandaH33

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Re: Things to keep in mind when Googling
« Reply #214 on: March 14, 2014, 05:33:01 PM »
Love, Love, Love this post!!!
Thank you so much!
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Offline Sarahnic9

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Re: Things to keep in mind when Googling
« Reply #215 on: March 16, 2014, 01:36:21 PM »
This is a great post
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Offline Blueberry

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Re: Things to keep in mind when Googling
« Reply #216 on: March 29, 2014, 07:08:40 PM »
There's a reason for all the WebMD cancer memes on the web. It's not easy to diagnose yourself unless you're a specialist and have gotten exams. Basically everything you see has vague, common symptoms. Is a headache a tumor, stress, cancer, a toothache, a sinus infection, or related to any other 100k problems?

I find articles make illnesses worse than they are. I'm not saying that cancers and tumors don't kill but they're not automatic death sentences. Even people with advanced stages have recovered. The media focuses on the negative. It reminds me of that scene from Mean Girls, just replace a few words.
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Offline bessy_leyh18

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Re: Things to keep in mind when Googling
« Reply #217 on: April 18, 2014, 10:47:43 AM »
I think I may have this disorder. :( My therapist ACTUALLY ASKED AND BEGGED ME TO STOP GOOGLING EVERYTHING about the things I feel.  :angry-smiley-034: :angry-smiley-034: :angry-smiley-034: :angry-smiley-034: :angry-smiley-034:
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Veritas. Amicitia. Gaudium.

Offline servo75

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Re: Things to keep in mind when Googling
« Reply #218 on: April 18, 2014, 11:18:54 AM »
I'd like to add to this because I teach statistical courses, and we have to keep in mind the difference between conditional probabilities.  Let's say that a particular symptom occurs in cancer.  If 90% of patients with this cancer have that symptom, that is NOT the same thing as saying 90% of people with this symptom have cancer.  That's what makes Googling so dangerous.  They tell you what the symptoms might be IF you have that disease, but is far from saying vice versa.  What the stats don't tell you is that say 20% of people without cancer also have that symptom, and that particular cancer is rare. 

For example let's say that 90% of Writhing Bogey patients have sore pinky fingers.  However, only 1% of the population has Writhing Bogey, and 20% of the population has a sore pinky for some reason or another.  So 2,000 out of 10,000 people have sore pinky, but because only 100 have the illness, and 90 of those have sore pinkies, then inputting all this data, what percent of people with a sore pinky have Writhing Bogey?  Turns out 90 out of 2000, or 4.5%!!  Even if 99% of WB patients have sore pinkys, the probability swells to 99/2000, still less than 5%.
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Offline muggel123

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Re: Things to keep in mind when Googling
« Reply #219 on: April 18, 2014, 06:07:31 PM »
That`s a great post - thank you...
I am also a "symptom googler"... having a hard time letting go of it.
I console myself with thinking, that the people writing there are not representative of the whole world, i.e. what about all the others who had the same symptoms but got better. If you get better you don`t feel the need to write on google again. So all we hear is about the bad stuff and think that`s all there is. But we don`t hear about the numerous cases that turned out to be other, maybe more harmless things, or the cases were treatment was possible and easy. And then we are left with all the negative stuff and little hope.
There are numerous people out there who were cured or just erred in their own diagnosis.
We should focus on the the positive posts
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Offline DrunkCanuck

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Re: Things to keep in mind when Googling
« Reply #220 on: May 08, 2014, 11:01:22 PM »
Wonderful post!!  I am guilty of all of these habits and I'm definitely going to bookmark this post to try a help me to get through the bad days!
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Offline Ihadcancer

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Re: Things to keep in mind when Googling
« Reply #221 on: May 10, 2014, 01:29:31 PM »
Awesome post! Fit me to a T!

Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I was in a pre nursing program until I got married but worked in hospitals and mental institutions (Private) for about 6 or 7 years. Then I worked as a Senior Medical Claims examiner for BC/BS. What I saw. What I heard. What I learned........ haunts me. I couldn't WAIT to turn 34 because that was the 'average' age for onset of Lupus and I'd seen firsthand a horrible case of Lupus (you do NOT want to know the details but let me just say the woman was in isolation because it was so horrific looking.)

One thing we've said on the colon cancer forums is our stats really are 0% or 100%.  Saying my chance of being cured after my liver resection is 50% of a cure, or 50% that it will someday show up somewhere else is wrong. Either it will or it won't.  0% or 100%. 

Thanks for this VERY helpful and funny post.  Wrong Diagnosis is EVIL! I can easily not go there! Google..... Mayo..... Healthtap..... oh my!
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Offline lebron34

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Re: Things to keep in mind when Googling
« Reply #222 on: May 11, 2014, 07:46:51 PM »
Blocking the medical sites is a great idea! I have a problem of always looking up whatever symptoms I believe I have on Google, and it makes them a 100 times worse, and as everyone here knows Googling any  "illness" is a very bad bad idea.
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Offline nandini

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Re: Things to keep in mind when Googling
« Reply #223 on: May 27, 2014, 08:27:30 AM »
I so have severe HA. I want some one to talk with. who can help get rid of this. Please help. :fragend005:
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Offline brandybran

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Re: Things to keep in mind when Googling
« Reply #224 on: June 09, 2014, 06:33:25 PM »
I'm new to this forum and I love this post. I do this all the time and it's horrible. I think I have every type of cancer I hear about. Thanks for the great post. Its funny and very true!
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