In the He Says/She Says series, we discuss financial-ish topics where we agree to disagree.
Joanna is a survivor. Cue Destiny’s Child soundtrack. She has battled leukemia, endometriosis, breast cancer, ADHD, and appendicitis. Most impressive is that she suffers from no lingering effects from these serious illnesses. That’s because Joanna’s a survivor. Oh, also because she’s never actually had any of these conditions in the first place.
You see, Joanna is one of the 35% of American adults that self-diagnose medical conditions. And to be fair, I’d also fit within that group. But Joanna probably sits in the upper echelon of self-diagnosers. When something hurts or I’m not feeling very good, I’ll usually say, “Man, my [insert body part here] really hurts.” When Joanna approaches me about feeling under the weather, she’ll say, “I have polio.” Alright, cool.
Joanna’s diagnostic drug of choice is WebMD. Their SymptomChecker tool actually has you click around your body where you’re experiencing pain/discomfort/intense burning, select a few symptoms like nausea/vomiting, swelling, drainage/pus (sorry), and then answer a few additional questions specific to those symptoms. After you’ve checked your boxes and hit submit, voila!, you’ve got possible diseases and illnesses galore.
If you don’t find yourself in the 35% crew, I’ll walk through how it works — or not works. We went on a cleaning rampage this weekend and I learned the cold hard lesson that vacuuming and energy drinks don’t mesh well. At some point in my overly enthusiastic stair vacuuming, I overextended and strained something in my abdomen. Let’s not dwell on how pathetic this is. Moving right along. But it’s a few days later, and my hypochondriac-tic brain starts wondering if that lingering pain isn’t something else disguised as an abdominal strain. So I go to WebMD, click on the upper abdomen and select Pain or Discomfort. Then it asks me a series of nine questions, drilling down the sensation of the pain, if it’s on the left or right side, if the pain is made worse by swallowing irritating chemicals or poison… uhhh. Anyway, after completing those answers, it finally gives me my list of 64 possible conditions, listed in decreasing likelihood. So what have I got?
These results were actually surprisingly tame. Well, minus the SECOND DEADLIEST CANCER. Of course my brain locks on that condition and I click it, only to read symptoms that I psych myself into thinking I’ve got. “I guess I have felt a little more bloated lately.” And then depression, fear and despair sets in.
Despite Joanna’s not-so-good track record with the tool, she still relies far too heavily on it instead of medical professionals. And that’s where Joanna and I disagree on this point. She’d rather save the $15 copay and the hassle of scheduling and visiting a doctor. After enough prodding from me, she usually gives up, only to return home with a much less dire diagnosis.
And that’s a very, very good thing.