With the rise of the internet and the ability to google your symptoms many have been turning to self diagnosis but what really is it and why is important?
We’ve all heard about doctor google and how you probably shouldn’t just google symptoms as more often than not the internet will tell you that you are clearly dying of the plague, but why is it such a hot topic in the chronic illness community?
Self diagnosis is when a patient uses research to find information on a condition that best fits the symptoms they are experiencing. Often this happens because the patient either doesn’t have access to healthcare or they do but either due to discrimination or fear they are unable to seek professional care.
Well healthcare is the same. Someone’s financial status could mean they can’t pay for better doctors. They might live in a really poor area that doesn’t have a lot of health care funding or it might be down to personal biases the doctor treating them. This can include racism, transphobia, fat phobia and so much more.
To take racism as an example, we know that black people are given substantially less pain relief than their white counterparts. In fact one study examining pain management among patients with metastatic or recurrent cancer found that only 35% of racial minority patients received the appropriate prescriptions—as established by the World Health Organization guidelines—compared with 50% of nonminority patients.
Then look at healthcare for transgender or non binary people. Their biggest barrier to care is actually the fact that very physicians are comfortable with understanding how their treatments may be affected by hormone therapy. There simply isn’t enough education or research done on this and most of the understanding of this barrier has come from transgender and non binary people self reporting the issue. i.e. transgender and non binary people have said to governing bodies ‘this is bull because no one understands the care we need’ and that’s all the research we have.
That is truly mind blowing but also incredibly common across the board. Basically if you are from a minority and seeking healthcare you a substantially less likely to actually receive the correct diagnosis or even treatment and the more minority groups you are a part of i.e. if you are a black transgender person it only gets even more complicated.
So now we know a bit more about the barriers to health care that people can face, let’s look at why the chronic illness community has an issue with self diagnosing.
Now we’ve talked about the kinds of barriers that patients face when getting a diagnosis or even accessing healthcare, let’s look at why some people in the chronic illness community get so worked up by this idea.
*cough cough* chronic illness fakers reddit *cough* (if you haven’t heard of this cesspit of a forum then don’t look it up. They spend their lives trying to out fakers and instead just abuse other spoonies.)
So some people in our community are very loud about the fact they don’t believe in self diagnosis and instead insist anyone who does use it are attention seekers or hypochondriac’s. And let’s be real about this, yes it is definitely better to be diagnosed by a professional. They are able to guide your treatment so much better and also prescribe medicines where necessary. But saying people can ONLY be diagnosed this way is ignoring the privilege that some people hold. As we spoke about above, health does not happen in a vacuum and there are many things that can be barriers to someone accessing healthcare.
Self diagnosis, can lead to proper treatment for people. It can also enable them to seek out professionals who specialise in the area so that they are able to get a full diagnosis. It can also help them suggest areas for their medical team to investigate. In short it can help you advocate for yourself when your medical team aren’t listening.
To condemn self diagnosis on the basis that a select few might abuse it, is one of the largest issues we have in this community. We cannot on one hand talk about the length it takes chronically ill people to get diagnosed (5-10 years) and on the other condemn people for looking for answers. Especially when we are condemning them without even factoring in the very real and difficult barriers to healthcare.
Until there is a shift in the way we treat people who are marginalized by the system we must accept self diagnosis is not only valid but necessary.