Internet addiction is a new addiction that is wreaking havoc on people’s mental health and well-being. Google searches are all the rage because all the information is one click away. But when this web research concerns our health, it can be dangerous. Too much reliance on the Internet and the visual world can lead people to foster false beliefs and perceptions and push them away from reality.
A distraught mother called me and told me that her 18 year old son was acting very selfish and egotistical. He only thinks and talks about himself and his problems. It seems he has no empathy and doesn’t care about his family at all, she complained. She further told me that she was worried because she had researched the web and read articles on narcissism. Details shared online about narcissism matched her son’s behavior. She asked me if her son was a narcissist.
The parents of a 20 year old brought him to me for advice as he was clueless and always spoke about supernatural powers and the afterlife. The young boy looked confused when he told me that he had read many stories online about supernatural powers and the afterlife. He loved these stories and made videos about death and the afterlife. His parents complained that since then his behavior had changed and that he was not paying attention to his studies.
Many people have become very dependent on Google as a source of information today. They rely entirely on all the information given in them and this is the root cause of many of the problems doctors face with patients today. Our search for a vacation destination or an online shopping spree or a movie, a recipe, a contact or an address, everything is just a click away. And we have to thank technology for this boon, but sometimes it’s a bane too. When we are trying to find a cure or a diagnosis for our mental or physical ailments, it is dangerous and can turn out to be disastrous.
When it comes to our health issues, we should seek qualified doctors who will treat us based on our symptoms. Online knowledge is half-baked knowledge when dealing with human emotions and illnesses and many people think they are sick just by consuming this half-baked knowledge that they are also not qualified to understand. It is the cause of a large number of mental illnesses in people today. People start to imagine their illness or try to diagnose it using information online. This leads to more anxiety and stress and further complicates their life.
Many doctors often complain that it becomes very difficult for them to convince certain patients of their treatment or diagnosis when they arrive with an overload of preconceived information from “Dr Google” about their condition. In fact, many have already diagnosed themselves and are seeing doctors for approval. Like the two examples I cited above. In the first case, the mother thought her son was a narcissist because she read about it on the internet and diagnosed her son. In fact, during the counseling he told me that he was preoccupied with his career issues and that he was going through his own stresses and tensions and that he was irritated that his family, especially his mother, would understand him. not. In the second case, the young boy was still on the internet and too many stories and videos online had disturbed his thinking and cognitions. He was confused between the real world and the virtual world. Parents could not understand this.
Information online may or may not be authentic. Doctors spend years mastering their profession, sometimes 10 years or more studying medicine, depending on the level of their degrees. A doctor has read countless medical books, gained a comprehensive knowledge of the human mind and body, received rigorous training from seasoned teachers in dealing with patients and suffering. He takes care of patients and their symptoms firsthand. However, patients don’t read medical textbooks, but just use online research and try to become doctors. Treatment can never be generalized. What works for one patient may not work for another, and different patients may respond to treatment differently or show symptoms in different ways or respond to medications differently. Even with recent advances in artificial intelligence, my advice is to trust your doctors and try to build a good relationship with them. No technology or machine can replace the professional human touch that has empathy, knowledge and kindness.
Online research can never come close to a doctor’s examination, diagnosis, or treatment. I often have to remind my patient IT or IT or my patient accountants, lawyers or journalists that no matter how many online readings I do, I will never be able to become a lawyer or a software engineer. They wholeheartedly accept this fact, but many of them still cannot resist the urge to research their disease online and apply it to themselves. It is important that people use technology to develop and gain information in their own fields instead of venturing into other fields of which they have little knowledge.
Here I would like to stress that reading is very important and a very good habit, but the quality and authenticity of the reading you do matters a lot.
We need to be careful about how authentic and reliable the information online is. The Internet can sometimes be a very dangerous source of information in matters of mental or physical health. Sometimes when we tell our patients to read about certain issues or learn practical tips from videos such as breathing exercise techniques or relaxation techniques, we also clearly and confidently tell them to read through. from authentic and correct sources.
Unfortunately, today we have no “law enforcement agency” to fact-check information on the Internet. We must be very careful with what we read and its sources and not apply it on ourselves if it is a health problem. No one other than your doctor can help because they understand you and your disease best, because every human body is unique and what might be right for you may not be right for the other. So it is imperative that you consult and trust your doctor and not let your health suffer from half-baked knowledge online that could make us suffer and repent later. We all want to be healthy and fit, which is why we need to adopt a healthy lifestyle and, if necessary, consult and trust your doctors.
Recently we have seen or read incidents of violence against doctors. It is very sad to hear about such incidents where doctors have been stigmatized and beaten even during the Covid epidemic. Confidence in doctors has also declined over time for several other reasons. The first reason I feel is the print and visual media which mainly highlight and report the negative experiences of some doctors. Very few times the good work that physicians do on a daily basis has been recognized or shared by the media. Thus, the general impression on doctors that goes to the public is very negative. They are often shown to be greedy, reckless, not very empathetic and mean. There is immense damage that is done to the doctor-patient relationship because of this. of this picture of the doctors that is shown by the media possibly for his TRP. We are also often compared to God and when a patient dies we are targeted. People should remember that we are not a god but humans and we are all doing our duty and humans are not immortal. It should also be remembered that the doctor heals but that the costs and the infrastructure are not in his hands. It is the management of the hospital which takes care of it but unfortunately it is the doctor who is targeted.
(The author is a neuropsychologist and founder of a crisis helpline. The opinions expressed are personal)