What is this WIMS or Web-Induced Medical Stress? In the era of smart phones and readily available internet all information are available readily on our finger tips. Buying grocery, searching for house appliances, sports, clothing, instructions, foods to health conditions, ailments we can log into search engines and find information. When it comes to health if we read something that is similar to what we go through we take note of it and start assuming that we might have similar condition. Question is how reliable these sources are.
According to a 2012 survey by Pew Research, 72% of internet users say they looked online for health information. According to Silje Lier, a communication adviser for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services searching for possible causes of physical symptoms can be disastrous, causing fear and convincing people they have a rare illness.
We can explore many scenarios here. If there is body pain for many days and it is not going away, then you may have a discussion with your colleagues and friends. They might have similar symptoms and already undergone test to prove they have a condition and they disclose that to you.
Instead of consulting doctor, you will sit in front of computer and search for symptoms and find that your symptoms are similar to the condition what your friend expressed. Therefore, you decide that I also have same condition. Scenario two: You have some symptom and when you are on social media you will see some health related post that talks about similar symptom and cure for the same. It is on the internet and posted by someone – looks professional.
Now you decided that yes I have same condition and need same cure. You started looking for a product to cure your condition. Scenario three: You come across health product site and you see a product that is supposed to be a cure for the condition/symptoms you have. You take it seriously and buy the product.
In all three scenarios just because you had some symptoms and confirmed it (yourself) on an “article” appeared on the internet, does not mean that the information is accurate. You ended up buying something that you don’t know whether it is safe for your body system or not. You don’t even know the ingredients! More importantly, you are now anxious and stressed out as you believe that you have something serious going on inside your body – this is what is known as Web-Induced Medical stress. You guessed and came to a conclusion that you have some kind of an ailment.
How to alleviate this WIMS ?
1) Don’t delay or wait to see a doctor
2) Do not guess and do not take chances with health
3) Do not relay on search engine when it comes to your health.
4) If you are looking for information on the web – how do you know if it is a credible source?
5) Getting educated and trying to understand about symptoms or ailment that you have is okay. But, do not trust all sources. A few questions that one should explore and get answer before deciding if a site has true information are listed here:
- Is the site is selling a health or pharmacy product?
- Do they use scare tactics to make their point?
- Do they promise a “cure” for your ailment?
- When was the information published? Is it old or new?
- Is there any research evidence? Do they have proof?
- Do they have About us and contact address?
- Why is this information available? Are they trying to persuade or sell you something?
- Who sponsors or hosts the website?
- Is my privacy being protected? How will they use your personal information?
- Have they referred to any other government health organization?
- Is there a contact number or email address?
- When you send an email -did they respond?
- Are they asking for money?
- Who is the charge of the website?
- How is content selected?
If you feel something is not correct and get a red flag while answering these questions then do not relay on the site. It is better to seek doctor’s advice.
Remember: When you are looking for information on a site they can track you and trick you with pop ups and suggestions based on your search and what you looking for you. If you fall for it, then you will be a WIMS victim.
Watch this video about WIMS.
Don’t fall for false and baseless information in internet and assume that you have some ailment because you found the symptoms are similar to some condition. Don’t be a victim of WIMS. Many times, several conditions can share one or multiple symptoms. Or it may be a passing symptom and nothing serious. Always look for research based articles and collect the information. Get an appointment and share your thoughts with your physician. Your physician is the right person who can guide you with proper answer.
For free, reliable prevention and wellness guidance visit healthfinder.gov
Image and reference source: https://healthfinder.gov