• Printer Friendly Version
  • Decrease Text Size
  • Increase Text Size
  • PDF

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Don’t Trust Dr. Internet: Why Self-Diagnosis Can Be Risky

Posted By: Advancing Care

Medically reviewed by Scott Bernstein, MD

Have you ever had an unusual symptom that led you on a deep dive online, or watched a social media video that convinced you that you have some rare disease? We've all been there. The internet is a treasure trove of information, but when it comes to your health, relying solely on self-diagnosis can lead you down a questionable path.

Don't Trust Dr. Internet

Why self-diagnosis can be risky

While credible sources exist, a quick search can bombard you with a laundry list of possibilities. This information overload can fuel unnecessary worry and even mask a more serious underlying issue.

Additionally, symptoms often overlap across various conditions. Relying solely on online information to self-diagnose can lead to a misdiagnosis, potentially delaying your medical care and worsening your condition.

The most common conditions mistaken during self-diagnosis include:

  • Headaches: Headaches can be a symptom of serious conditions like meningitis or brain tumors, but they can also be harmless. A primary care physician can help figure out the underlying causes of your headaches.
  • Skin concerns: Diagnosing skin conditions solely based on online pictures can be misleading. A dermatologist can accurately assess the issue and recommend the appropriate treatment.
  • Mental health disorders: Feeling down or stressed doesn't automatically translate to a diagnosable mental health condition. A mental health professional can give you the proper support and guidance.

The rise of the misinformed influencer

The digital landscape has become even more complex with the rise of social media influencers. While some creators offer valuable health information (and some are even trained medical professionals), they lack the context of your personal medical history.

These self-proclaimed "experts" can provide misleading or generalized advice, further stoking confusion and self-diagnosis. This is particularly concerning on social media platforms where children and teens are exposed to a constant stream of content related to mental health.


  • The internet is a helpful tool, but it cannot replace the expertise of a medical professional. When in doubt, talk to your doctor directly.
  • Everyone’s health is different, and what may be true for one person may not be true for you.
  • Symptoms alone are not enough for an accurate diagnosis.
  • Early and proper medical attention is crucial for effective treatment and overall well-being.

The next time you experience concerning symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor. They can provide a proper diagnosis, address your concerns and recommend the best course of action.

To make an appointment with one of WMCHealth’s primary care physicians, visit our website or locate a Bon Secours Medical Group provider.