Self Diagnosis Pitfalls

Self diagnosis is a dangerous practice. In fact, it is one of the most likely ways to get a misdiagnosis, which is the one thing we want to avoid. We recommend you always seek prompt professional in-person medical advice from your local qualified medical professional.

In practice, self diagnosis is common for many of the most common symptoms and ailments. When you feel the symptoms of a common cold coming on, you don't always rush to the doctor to confirm it. We nevertheless urge you to consult with your doctor about any symptoms, particularly if there is any doubt or concern, or if the symptoms concern a child, infant, elderly, ill, infirm, pregnant, or otherwise at-risk patient.

There are two main ways that a self-diagnosis can go wrong: failure to diagnose a serious illness, or the incorrect self-diagnosis with an extremely serious disease. In the first case, an example would be the failure to diagnose a fever as being caused by meningitis or other serious causes of fever (see misdiagnosis of fever).

Over-diagnosis of serious diseases

In the second case, a person making a self-diagnosis may erroneously come to the belief that they have something serious. There are serious and deadly causes of just about every symptom, but that doesn't mean that you have one of them. Just because you have unexplained weight loss, doesn't mean you have cancer. Just because you feel anxious doesn't mean you have an anxiety disorder. Feeling sadness doesn't always mean you have clinical depression. This type of over-diagnosis of serious illnesses, a kind of hypochondria, has even been given its own coined name: 'cyberchondria' (i.e. hypochondria in the cyber-world).