We humans crave answers. Whether you look at it from an evolutionary or biblical perspective, our hunt for answers has been the force behind human progress and survival. We want answers to the little questions that pop up all day (and help us survive), and to the big ones that keep us up at night (and help us progress).
Enter Google, the ultimate conduit for our innate drive to forage for answers. It’s easy, it’s instant, it’s endless. What could go wrong? Quite a bit, depending on what type of answer you are seeking. Case in point: when seeking answers about quitting addictions. There are so many important reasons to consult professional sources.
Here are just a few pitfalls of treating Google like a therapist:
1. It drains your time, and your motivation.
Your time and motivation are valuable currencies, and trying to google your way to recovery depletes both. The world of recovery is already an endless abyss of options and information, some good and some very, very bad. Put that abyss online and it gets even more overwhelming. Trying to curate your own recovery program via sifting through search results is inefficient and worse, often ineffective. Save yourself time and headache by investing in addiction recovery guidance from the pros.
2. It can lead you to over-rely on nonprofessional opinions.
Googling addiction concerns and you’ll often wind up on free-for-all style recovery forums. While crowd-sourced wisdom and peer-to-peer support certainly have their useful place in recovery, they’re only one piece of the puzzle. Unlike professional sources of help, they are prone to anecdotal evidence and sometimes provide misleading or downright false information. These range from the dangerous to the bewildering to the silly (see header pic). So it’s essential to check the wisdom of the crowd with the expertise of the pros.
3. You can find what you want to find, not what will actually help.
Like any major lifestyle change, quitting an addiction requires taking an honest look at where you are and where you want to go. That means candidly confronting the pros and cons of your addiction. This is tough to do when you treat Google as your therapist, because you can, even subconsciously, avoid truths that are inconvenient and uncomfortable. For example, you can easily type in “Why drinking/drug/other addictive behavior is actually good for you” or “how quitting makes you feel worse” and find pages answers that will validate your doubts and demotivate you, even though they only represent a tiny tiny shred of the truth.
4. It can amplify unhelpful myths and stigmas.
A lack of understanding about the causes of addiction among the public has been an obstacle in getting people proper care for decades. It was only this past fall that the surgeon general released its first ever addiction related report declaring it a brain disease. Thus, it’s no surprise that the internet will also reflect the longstanding stigma and confusion surrounding the the subject. This can strip way your motivation and send you in unhelpful directions when trying to quit.
5. Medical supervision is essential for quitting an addiction.
Neither Google nor support groups nor any other non-medical help option can substitute for consulting with your doctor. Getting adequate medical care is important whether you’re trying to kick an addiction or not. But if you are, the stakes are even higher; there are physical health consequences of quitting many types of addictions, and sometimes ones that are dangerous without appropriate healthcare (alcohol withdrawal syndrome, for example)
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Cassandra McIntosh is the Head of Content at Workit Health. She brings a unique mix of expertise drawn from her background in counseling psychology, socio-organizational psychology and consumer insights.