We all have a tendency to make a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to self-diagnosing ourselves. Thanks to sites like WebMD, we have turned into full-on hypochondriacs and have probably all thought at one point in time we have a serious illness, when, in fact, it was nothing more than a bad cold or weird bruise.
While we can’t offer legitimate medical advice—that’s what your doctor is for—it may ease your mind to know that those odd aches and pains are most likely something completely benign. With any of these symptoms, we always recommend checking with a medical professional if you are concerned or have any questions.
But if your mild hypochondria is getting the best of you and you’re curious to see the most common self-misdiagnoses, check out this list to find out what those body aches might actually be.
Symptom: An Inability to Focus
What is probably is: Us no longer having an attention span
In today’s society, we all tend to think we have a little hyperactivity. In truth, however, we just have no attention span.
We are always easily distracted and desperate to know everything so quickly. There is a reason that videos that go viral on social media have incorporated subtitles: it’s because companies know that we are so scared to commit to watching a two-minute video. If they add subtitles then we don’t have to click on the video itself and feel that commitment; we can just stay on the main page and watch music videos without sound while reading the lyrics.
We can go on and on about the lack of attention span but feeling distracted or unable to focus does not necessarily mean you have ADD or ADHD. The next time you’re feeling hyperactive, try cleaning your apartment—you’ll quickly realize that you don’t have that much energy after all. Bring on the Netflix.
Symptom: A Mysterious Lump
Self-Diagnosis: Malignant tumor
What it probably is: Swollen gland
Every single one of us has felt a lump on our bodies at some point and immediately thought, “Okay, this is it, this is how I die.”
Now no one is saying it’s not something to take with caution and get checked out. In fact, we encourage it!
But quiet your mind for a moment by recognizing there is also the possibility that it is nothing more than a swollen gland. We have glands all over our body and when we fight off an infection, they put in overtime so they swell. It’s easy to think that since you’re already sick and your glands in your neck are swollen that it could be serious, but more times than not, it’s simply your body fighting extra hard to kill whatever is making you feel sick.
Give it a couple days and if they’re still incredibly swollen, go to the doctor, but if they’ve decreased, then it’s probably nothing to worry about.
Symptom: A New Mole
Self-Diagnosis: Skin cancer
What it probably is: Well… A new mole
Skin cancer is nothing to joke about. In reality, one in five people in the U.S will get skin cancer at some point in their lives. That is a heavy fact and something we should all take seriously.
However, every time we look in the mirror and find a new freckle or mole, our minds immediately go to melanoma or skin cancer. The fact is, as we age we get spots, colorations, moles, freckles, and more, and it’s nothing more than just that: aging.
There is a lot of research out there which tells us how to prevent getting age spots and also lower any chances for skin cancer. Always be safe and use sunscreen and stay out of the sun when possible, because no one wants to age quicker than they have to.
By protecting yourself from UVA and UVB rays with a broad spectrum sunscreen, you’ll also lower your chances of new freckles (which are caused by a group of cells in the skin making more melanin, a dark pigment, than the surrounding skin) which will then lower your anxiety of thinking you have skin cancer.
Bottom line: always take your skincare seriously and cover up, but don’t give yourself a nervous breakdown when you look in the mirror and find a new spot.
Symptom: Muscle Twitch
Self-Diagnosis: Something very wrong. You don’t know what, but it’s something.
What it probably is: Dehydration
We have all experienced those random, annoying muscle spasms. They can happen out of nowhere and in the most random spots—eyelids, lower back, feet, fingers—nowhere is safe.
When it first happens, it comes at a shock and can easily freak us out as we have no control over the spasm and aren’t quite sure what is happening. It is really nothing to worry about though as these twitches happen with over 90 percent of people and tend to happen at random locations in our body.
The truth behind them isn’t fully understood but most doctors think it depends on our stress level, caffeine intake, and amount of sleep. They are more common after a workout since you have some lactic acid built up in your muscles. The best thing to do is stay hydrated so your muscles can heal quicker.
Next time you get a series of these annoying twitches, go grab a coconut water that is full of potassium and it should help you out.
Self-Diagnosis: Brain clot
What is probably is: Stress and lack of sleep
First off you’ll be happy to hear that your brain can’t actually feel pain so when you get a headache, it’s not your actual brain, but the area around your head, face, and neck. Now to be safe, of course you should always take precaution, but don’t give yourself more pain by automatically assuming the worst.
There can be a number of reasons you get a headache: too much caffeine (or lack thereof if you’re a habitual coffee drinker), stress, a strained muscle, sinus problems, a fever—the list goes on and on.
The best thing to do is try to relax, maybe take some ibuprofen, and wait it out. If it continues then of course you may want to see a doctor, but try to not over react at first.
There is also a trick to try to relieve some pressure if it’s a sinus headache. Take your thumbs and push them into the part right above your eye but below your eyebrow. You can also push your tongue into the roof of your mouth and then pinch the nerve right between your thumb and pointer finger. Try it next time and see if it helps!
Symptom: Stomach Pain
Self-Diagnosis: Crohn’s, cancer, or internal damage
What it probably is: Constipation, bloating, or gas
Stomach pain can be absolutely debilitating. You can have intense pain or trouble breathing, which leaves you feeling like a beached whale. It’s not uncommon to be keeled over, feeling overly sensitive and in pain.
There are a number of things that run though our heads in these situations and most are very serious, but in truth these symptoms can be caused by nothing more than constipation or gas. It’s not pleasant or pretty, but it can be the truth. A very relieving truth.
A lot of things can affect your body and stomach to create constipation or bloating. For instance, if you’ve just traveled on an airplane, or taken certain pain medications, or eaten your heart out on a charcuterie board, then try taking some Tums or a gentle laxative and see if that relieves the pain you’re feeling.
If it becomes more serious then of course the doctor is the way to go, but it’s worth trying before spending all the money and time waiting at the doctor’s office for him to simply say, “Yeah, you need to poop.”
Symptom: Knee pain
Self-diagnosis: A torn ligament or muscle—something that definitely requires surgery
What it probably is: Soreness
Knees are very sensitive areas and no one wants to have an injury that impacts their daily mobility like a knee injury. Therefore, every time something happens with our knees, we tend to think it is more serious than it really is. Especially if the pain lasts.
There might be a simple cause of this that we tend to overlook. For the majority of people with a job, that job takes place in an office and has us sitting at a desk for nine hours a day. We don’t really get up to walk around but a couple times throughout the day, and then when we leave, we walk to our car, sit in traffic, maybe go to the gym and rush in to make that intense workout class like kickboxing or soul cycle.
If this describes most of your week days, the soreness makes sense. You essentially just sat for nearly 10 hours without using your legs at all and then rush your body into an extreme workout where you extend your knee.
That can create intense pain and soreness and could lead to a serious injury. The next time you have pain in your knee, try scheduling some time to get a good warm-ups in and some stretching before rushing into that yoga class.
Symptom: Back pain
Self-diagnosis: A slipped disc
What it probably is: Sleeping (or sitting) in a bad position
Ever wake up and realize you slept in a funny position and now you can only turn your neck to the right? We know it’s due to sleeping all crammed up and in an odd position. The same rules can apply to our lower back and hips.
The correct way to sleep is on our side with a pillow in between our legs so our spinal cord can lay parallel with our bed in an even position. People who actually sleep like that are lucky. Most of us sleep on our backs, stomachs, or sprawled out like Spider-Man in the middle of our bed.
We wake up the next day and jump in the shower, rush off to work, sit in a chair, and then go home and sit on our couch. Then back to bed and repeat. Needless to say, this leads to soreness and pain.
The next time you incur some lower back pain and you think you’ve slipped a disc, try rearranging your sleeping position, buy a body pillow, and do some gentle stretches upon waking and see if that helps. No need to rush into back surgery just yet.