Dr Google is available now.

But he will only tell you what you want to hear.

I’ve mentioned before that you must be careful when googling your symptoms.

The internet is an excellent source of information, depending on how you use it.

If you feel pain in your head and are convinced to have a brain tumour and enter “headache + brain tumour” into the search,  Google will oblige you by giving you everything that has ever been written on headaches and brain tumours.

This does not mean that you have a brain tumour.  It means you got information about what you specifically asked for – headaches and brain tumours.

The clue in the last sentence was the word “specific” Your focus was too narrow.

You are putting into Google what you are afraid of, either looking to get evidence that you have a brain tumour, then you can sort it, or you are seeking reassurance that you do not have a tumour.

Go big

Enter “headache” into Google, and you will get a list of all possible causes, most of which will not scare you half to death.

Or give Dr Google a break and ask a medical doctor.

What happens when I keep googling my symptoms

You are making the pathway for anxiety stronger in your brain

Googling your symptoms is fine if you get the answers you seek and leave them.

However, it is not OK if it is something that you habitually do when you are feeling anxious.

In the long run, you are preparing a well-trodden path in your brain that alerts you to do this each time you feel anxious.

How does it start?

Let’s take the example of chest pain, assuming you have been given the all-clear medically.

You get the pain and probably a whole selection of other symptoms, and bang, the thoughts start.

What if it is my heart?
What if they missed something?
How do I know the difference between anxiety and a heart attack?

Before you know it, you’re on Google, looking for answers and, more importantly, reassurance to help calm you down.

The key to it, is to see it for what it is

Something happens.     In this case, chest pain
Followed by thoughts.     What if it is my heart

These thoughts, combined with the real pain that you are feeling, is making you afraid.

This is when you turn to Google and momentarily feel okay when you find the information that says you are okay and calm down a little.

Your brain is quick to learn; I feel anxious, I know; I’ll check Google for some information, which sometimes calms me down.

This becomes the well-trodden path in your brain that will complete automatically next time you feel this way.

It is the anxiety that you now feel that makes you want to Google.

It is the anxiety that is fueling the scary thoughts that you have.

The thoughts then make you more anxious, and are stuck in a vicious loop.

It would help if you found another way to calm yourself down (instead of frantic searching). Then you break the chain; you break the learning, the well-trodden path in your brain.

You will also teach yourself to develop a new, more helpful path in your brain.

It is not the emotion, the anxiety, that is the problem, but how you respond to it.

You need to develop a new pathway

The one that you currently have is keeping you anxious.  Ask yourself these questions.

Do you feel in control?

Are you able to take time and read the information that you are reading, or

Do you frantically bounce from one website to the next, scanning the pages, looking for “something”?

I am guessing that when you Google, you feel very anxious both in your mind and body as you search for some explanation.

It is essential in terms of what you are doing to your brain and the impact this has on your anxiety levels.

Your brain is learning; when you feel anxious, you start searching for symptoms, and when this happens, you feel more anxious.

Each time you repeat this pattern, you strengthen your brain’s connection.

Feel anxious + scary thoughts = Google symptoms

Except this never makes you feel okay

You want new learning

Feel anxious + scary thoughts = use another method to calm down how I feel in my mind.

If you do this, you are starting to respond to the emotion (the anxiety) in a more helpful way, which does not keep you anxious.

If there is one point that I want you to take from this page, it is

Anxiety is not the problem; it is how you respond to the anxiety that creates the problem.

You can choose to respond differently.

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