In this age of information at our fingertips, we take our questions to the internet - we google them. In one example, a team of doctors polled a group of patients attending a genitourinary clinic. Of 223 patients questioned, 101 (45.3%) had looked up their symptoms on the Internet. "Twenty (19.8%) out of 101 patients diagnosed their own symptoms, and 14 (13.9%) patients made the correct diagnosis" (Schembri & Schober, 2009).
Another study used doctors to determine how often searching with Google leads doctors to the correct diagnosis. In this case, googling helped determine the correct diagnosis in 15 of 23 cases, or 58% (Tang & Ng, 2006). Even trained medical professionals have a margin for error.
It should be no surprise that people experiencing emotional upheaval or mental difficulties would also use this tool to try to figure out what is going on with them. But where do you start when you have no idea what you are experiencing? Well, apparently a common search phrase is "What is wrong with me?"
In May 2007, I blogged about a poem entitled ... you guessed it! What Is Wrong with Me?
I am happy, yet, I feel miserable...
I am quite healthy, but I always feel sick...
I sleep enough why am I always tired?
I know I am loved, so why do I feel alone?
What is wrong with me?
This simple but poignant post struck a chord, receiving hundreds of comments from people who googled this phrase. For example...
- Wow, that's just how I feel. I was confused about it and thought I was weird. No one believes me when I say how I feel and I don’t really understand how I feel myself recently. Thank you for being so brave to share because it helps me know I have a problem and that I’m not just strange or attention-seeking. It really helps. ~Nat
- Wow, this is amazing; I thought I was a selfish, crazy moron. I typed in "what is wrong with me" on Google because I felt that way and this is what I find out. Turns out I actually might be sick. ~Christina
- Hmmm ... obviously I too typed in those words "What's wrong with me?" and came across so many other people who did the same thing – strange. After reading most comments, I feel the need to say that considering so many of us are feeling this way, there simply can’t be anything wrong with us! ~Leonie
Some of you finding this may be struggling with a mental disorder, such as bipolar disorder. Others may not. I think the really encouraging take-home for each of us is that we are not alone in how we feel. There are many people who understand.
And to all those who came to that blog by typing "what is wrong with me?" into a search engine - don't suffer in silence. Seek help.
Tang, H. and Ng, J.H.K. (2006). Googling for a diagnosis - Use of Google as a diagnostic aid: Internet based study. BMJ, 333, 1143-1145.
Schembri, G. and Schober, P. (2009). The Internet as a diagnostic aid: The patients' perspective. International Journal of STD & AIDS, 20, 231-233.