Feeling that something is physically wrong with ourselves or someone we love can be a huge source of anxiety.
As humans, we harbour a fundamental fear of the unknown (Carleton, 2016). It makes us uneasy, and when we can start to negatively forecast the future. We imagine what will go wrong. So when something about our body doesn’t feel right and we don’t know why, we might fill our minds with negative thoughts like ‘What if it gets worse?’ ‘What if it affects my sleep?’ ‘What if it stops me from doing what I want to do?’.
In Solution Focused Hypnotherapy we talk about how all of these negative thoughts are converted into anxiety in our minds. As our anxiety builds we spend more time operating from our primitive emotional mind: we become irritable and distracted. We lash out or we withdraw. And this anxiety fuels yet more anxiety.
In our desperation to know and to alleviate the anxiety that comes with the unknown, many of us reach for our phones. It has been estimated that Google’s health related searches amount to approximately 70,000 every minute (Murphy, 2019).
However, new research from Edith Cowan University (ECU) published in the Medical Journal of Australia this week revealed that online symptom checkers produce the correct diagnosis just 36 per cent of the time.
So not only is this information inaccurate, it provides further fuel for our negative forecasting. It gives colour and detail to a number of possible negative futures, so that we can imagine them in more clarity, again and again, increasing our anxiety each time.
So next time you feel the urge to reach out to Google for a medical diagnosis, take a moment. Make an appointment with a health professional, and then focus your attention on the present, on what you can do, right now, to trigger your parasympathetic nervous system and get your neurochemistry working in your favour.
Carleton, R. N. (2016). Into the Unknown: a review and synthesis of contemporary models involving uncertainty Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 39. 30-43, 10.1016/j.janxdis.2016.02.007
Murphy, M. (2019) Dr Google will see you now: Search giant wants to cash in on your medical queries. The Telegraph. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2019/03/10/google-sifting-one-billion-health-questions-day/
Hill, M. G., Simm, M., & Mills, B. (2020) “The quality of diagnosis and triage advice provided by free online symptom checkers and apps in Australia”. Medical Journal of Australia doi:10.5694/mja2.50600