Investment thought loops have been destroying me

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bogleuser24
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Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by bogleuser24 » Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:59 am

I feel shameful to even have to put this out in the open as I read many heartbreaking stories here with people with specific struggles with financial issues. However, I am far from having a specific tangible issue. In fact, I expect some to find this completely ridiculous.

My struggle is mental. The best I can describe it as is a thought loop that consumes every aspect of my mental energy leaving me unproductive and prevents me from appreciating all the joys in life.

To provide a brief background, my wife and I have been very fortunate to have high paying jobs and have been able to accumulate $1M+ in savings. We have no foreseeable financial risks or debt and we are our 30's.

After the 2009 financial crises I developed a fear of losing money and since had been incredibly conservative with any investments. To the point where I would spend the majority of the time on the sidelines forgoing hundreds of thousands of possible market gain.

A year ago I decided to take an active role in my investments by trading stocks, futures, etc..the net of it is I have made some money but not nearly enough. The winners provide me with no emotional gratification as it feels that I have a long way to go before I would ever make enough to make up of being so conservative in the past.

My thought loops consists of thoughts such as
-Frustration that I didn't invest money properly last week, last month, last year, etc..market keeps going up and pullbacks never seem to come.
-Frustration that any winners I do have, I end up selling too soon only to watch them keep going up.
-Positions I didn't take that would have been profitable, why didn't I take them?
-What if I just put everything in an index fund today? But what if this is the top and if I waited I could enter at a better price? Okay brain, I will wait.
-Why did I not buy that investment property a few years ago? It would have been worth 2x.

When I read this, I can see how it sounds like irrational greed. However, my wife and I live fairly modestly and having the extra money wouldn't materially change how we live. I believe it is deeper than what it sounds like on the surface. It feels more like just missed opportunities have consumed my mind. There is a sense of regret and strong feelings of failure in missing out.

I have no history of mental illness but this has progressed to the point where it has made it nearly impossible to concentrate and focus on any task without something triggering these thought loops.

Has anyone experienced this? What do I even do?

zrail
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by zrail » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:23 am

I strongly suggest seeking out psychotherapy. When I had some similar issues therapy was very helpful for providing me with tactics for addressing anxieties like that. It’s typically not a “forever” thing. Most of the time you only need a few sessions to get you over the hump and learn the techniques. Plus, most Insurance will cover it these days.

FRANK2009
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by FRANK2009 » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:28 am

Yes, I have so many regrets financially and in my work and personal life that I could write a book. I've learned that no amount of thinking about things will change anything in the past. I've learned that thinking about the past leads to those "loops" you mentioned. Thinking about past regrets is waste of time and energy as long as you've learned from your mistakes. I sort of trained myself to think about the present and future. Not perfect, but getting better at it. It has taken years.

This is an interesting thread and I look forward to read about other people's ideas. Thank you for bringing it up.


Frank

TwstdSista
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by TwstdSista » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:32 am

When I find I'm over-obsessing about something, I try to back out of the game so-to-speak.

Spending too much time on a particular website, stop making it my home page. Too much time on a sill farm game (don't judge me!), stop playing for a while. Too much time worrying about the stock market -- three fund portfolio and then step away from it for a while.

That's my best suggestion. You can "what if" until the end of time. Or you can get out there an live your life. Best of luck, obsessive thinking is a true problem in my world. And it isn't fun.

3funder
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by 3funder » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:33 am

My wife and I are doing very nicely (our net income greatly exceeds our expenses), and we have saved ~$400,000. We are both in our 30s, and we are in a better financial situation than most Americans. You have managed to save $1,000,000 and have 30 years of compounding ahead of you. Change your investing approach accordingly, but remember that you are still starting the race, for lack of a better term, ahead of the overwhelming majority of participants.

harvestbook
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by harvestbook » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:39 am

Counseling is an acceptable reaction to an irrational behavior that causes this degree of crippling distress.

In the meantime, Jason Zweig's "Your Money and Your Brain" may provide some insight into emotional responses to money.
Last edited by harvestbook on Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
I'm not smart enough to know, and I can't afford to guess.

dbr
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by dbr » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:40 am

I am rather skeptical about the benefits of counseling, but even so the amateur opinion is that you might benefit from seeing a psychologist or social worker specializing in anxiety counseling and management.

The statement that raises this to a mental health issue is this one (emphasis added): "I have no history of mental illness but this has progressed to the point where it has made it nearly impossible to concentrate and focus on any task without something triggering these thought loops."

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David Jay
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by David Jay » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:41 am

Additionally, do not let the "best" get in the way of the "good enough". At your age and your assets, you do not need to shoot for the moon.

Write an IPS (search or go to the Wiki). In your IPS, pick an asset allocation 10% more conservative (more bonds) than you feel is "right" in order to receive some pressure because you don't have a need to be aggressive.

As others have said, don't follow your investments. Limit yourself to a once-a-month portfolio check.
Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future - Niels Bohr | To get the "risk premium", you really do have to take the risk - nisiprius

ETadvisor
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by ETadvisor » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:42 am

OP, you are still young and my 30's caused growing pains. Your portfolio is much higher than most in your age group.

Mistakes I learned from:

1)Do not stay in dysfunctional relationship (professional or personal) for too long

2) Do not get divorced (see 1) but if must - do it quickly and hopefully with no kids

3) Invest 401k at least to the employer match

4) Do not hire a FA

5) Do not invest in companies that mine for commodities

Lafder
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by Lafder » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:48 am

Spend your time on this website, not on trading stocks! That way you will have something to obsess on :)

I like the simplicity of Boglehead style investing. It makes sense to me. Read this all the way through, it will answer every question you may think of along the way if you read it through, if not you can ask yourself.

viewtopic.php?f=10&t=88005

And importantly, look into behavioral economics. You are more predictable than you think...........

Read this book:

Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes and How to Correct Them, see this http://www.getrichslowly.org/2007/08/15 ... rect-them/

It is about emotions not numbers............

lafder

john4546
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by john4546 » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:50 am

"5) Do not invest in companies that mine for commodities"

Just curious, why?

ETadvisor
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by ETadvisor » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:55 am

john4546 wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:50 am
"5) Do not invest in companies that mine for commodities"

Just curious, why?
For one I am not a good stock picker and I got burned with a company that mined for gold. Also my FA (which I fired) is not a good stock picker as he invested me in Seadrill. I think we know how that turned out.

Now, I just follow the Index fund approach on this forum with slight tilts to small cap and EM as I am still in the accumulation phase. I do not invest in any commodities.

Dandy
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by Dandy » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:57 am

Your condition may require professional help to find a path out of obsessing. You know you have a problem and it is affecting your happiness and you can't stop -- that means you need help or you will be wasting a lot of your most healthy productive years in turmoil vs happiness. The fact that you are reaching out for help from this forum is a good first step. Since our expertise, if any, relates to money managing/investing we are not expert on how to address obsessive behavior -- but there are people who have that skill.

Suggestions from a non-professional:
I think you need to not be managing your investments perhaps by putting them in a balanced or all in one fund(s). Also, come to some resolution about not checking on them too often. Maybe start with once a week. Don't watch or read about investing, the market, etc. since that will likely trigger the anxiety loop---that probably should be even this forum.

Good luck

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camillus
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by camillus » Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:57 am

bogleuser,

In your particular situation, a written investment plan might be particularly useful. Write down an investment strategy that captures your risk tolerance and values. From then on, make decisions based off that document and stay the course.

livesoft
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by livesoft » Sun Jan 28, 2018 10:02 am

What does your spouse say about all this? Why not turn all investing tasks over to your spouse?
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Agggm
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by Agggm » Sun Jan 28, 2018 10:03 am

bogleuser24 wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:59 am
I feel shameful to even have to put this out in the open as I read many heartbreaking stories here with people with specific struggles with financial issues. However, I am far from having a specific tangible issue. In fact, I expect some to find this completely ridiculous.

My struggle is mental. The best I can describe it as is a thought loop that consumes every aspect of my mental energy leaving me unproductive and prevents me from appreciating all the joys in life.

To provide a brief background, my wife and I have been very fortunate to have high paying jobs and have been able to accumulate $1M+ in savings. We have no foreseeable financial risks or debt and we are our 30's.

After the 2009 financial crises I developed a fear of losing money and since had been incredibly conservative with any investments. To the point where I would spend the majority of the time on the sidelines forgoing hundreds of thousands of possible market gain.

A year ago I decided to take an active role in my investments by trading stocks, futures, etc..the net of it is I have made some money but not nearly enough. The winners provide me with no emotional gratification as it feels that I have a long way to go before I would ever make enough to make up of being so conservative in the past.

My thought loops consists of thoughts such as
-Frustration that I didn't invest money properly last week, last month, last year, etc..market keeps going up and pullbacks never seem to come.
-Frustration that any winners I do have, I end up selling too soon only to watch them keep going up.
-Positions I didn't take that would have been profitable, why didn't I take them?
-What if I just put everything in an index fund today? But what if this is the top and if I waited I could enter at a better price? Okay brain, I will wait.
-Why did I not buy that investment property a few years ago? It would have been worth 2x.

When I read this, I can see how it sounds like irrational greed. However, my wife and I live fairly modestly and having the extra money wouldn't materially change how we live. I believe it is deeper than what it sounds like on the surface. It feels more like just missed opportunities have consumed my mind. There is a sense of regret and strong feelings of failure in missing out.

I have no history of mental illness but this has progressed to the point where it has made it nearly impossible to concentrate and focus on any task without something triggering these thought loops.

Has anyone experienced this? What do I even do?
When I was very young. A teenager. I decided to invest in the stock market. The very first day I picked 6 stocks. The next day 5 of them went up between 30 and 60 percent. 1 dropped 10 percent. Yea, penny stocks. The investment amount was about $40k at the time.
I picked the stocks by scanning price charts and getting a feeling about them. I thought I had some gift.

Well, no, I didn't have a predictive gift. It was just dumb luck. And I was lucky enough to close out my positions and lock in those gains. We all have talents. But it's important to realize that in games of chance, it's about luck. The hot hand fallacy in basketball is an example. If your skill level at shooting baskets is such that your shooting percentage is 40% from a fixed distance, and you hit 5 shoots in a row, that 6th shot will still only have 40% chance of going in. Not 50% or 60%. Similar goes for stock picking at an amateur level. Unless you're head and shoulders above the rest of the investing world (like Buffet is, amoung a few others), stock picking is a game of chance to you (and me).

I only index now. Close to market weights (with tilts). I recommend you evaluate your ability to pick stocks successfully over the long haul realistically. If you're not at A+, indexing will probably work out better for you.

Set it and forget it; no really, forget it. No point to toiling over a game of chance.

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whodidntante
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by whodidntante » Sun Jan 28, 2018 10:03 am

I think it's natural to feel regret over the one who got away, but thinking about what you are doing right now is much more satisfying and productive. Remember your past mistakes but do not be defined by them. If I had a time machine, I would be far wealthier today.

It seems like you might be taking excessive risks these days, which is kind of a wild assumption for me to make because you mentioned trading futures. I would encourage you to take only acceptable risks for your situation. I'm not against leverage and do it myself, but using excessive leverage trying to make up for past mistakes isn't a good idea. You have to play the hand you're dealt and the stack in front of you.

H-Town
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by H-Town » Sun Jan 28, 2018 10:09 am

bogleuser24 wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:59 am
I feel shameful to even have to put this out in the open as I read many heartbreaking stories here with people with specific struggles with financial issues. However, I am far from having a specific tangible issue. In fact, I expect some to find this completely ridiculous.

My struggle is mental. The best I can describe it as is a thought loop that consumes every aspect of my mental energy leaving me unproductive and prevents me from appreciating all the joys in life.

To provide a brief background, my wife and I have been very fortunate to have high paying jobs and have been able to accumulate $1M+ in savings. We have no foreseeable financial risks or debt and we are our 30's.

After the 2009 financial crises I developed a fear of losing money and since had been incredibly conservative with any investments. To the point where I would spend the majority of the time on the sidelines forgoing hundreds of thousands of possible market gain.

A year ago I decided to take an active role in my investments by trading stocks, futures, etc..the net of it is I have made some money but not nearly enough. The winners provide me with no emotional gratification as it feels that I have a long way to go before I would ever make enough to make up of being so conservative in the past.

My thought loops consists of thoughts such as
-Frustration that I didn't invest money properly last week, last month, last year, etc..market keeps going up and pullbacks never seem to come.
-Frustration that any winners I do have, I end up selling too soon only to watch them keep going up.
-Positions I didn't take that would have been profitable, why didn't I take them?
-What if I just put everything in an index fund today? But what if this is the top and if I waited I could enter at a better price? Okay brain, I will wait.
-Why did I not buy that investment property a few years ago? It would have been worth 2x.

When I read this, I can see how it sounds like irrational greed. However, my wife and I live fairly modestly and having the extra money wouldn't materially change how we live. I believe it is deeper than what it sounds like on the surface. It feels more like just missed opportunities have consumed my mind. There is a sense of regret and strong feelings of failure in missing out.

I have no history of mental illness but this has progressed to the point where it has made it nearly impossible to concentrate and focus on any task without something triggering these thought loops.

Has anyone experienced this? What do I even do?
What you're doing are against the basic investing principles supported by bogleheads. If you can't stop this "addiction", then just use a target retirement fund or a 3-fund portfolio and be done. Stop checking balances and/or buying stocks, options, etc.

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Pajamas
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by Pajamas » Sun Jan 28, 2018 10:11 am

bogleuser24 wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:59 am

I have no history of mental illness but this has progressed to the point where it has made it nearly impossible to concentrate and focus on any task without something triggering these thought loops.

Has anyone experienced this? What do I even do?
Sounds like these thoughts and related behaviors have become pathological and are causing you significant distress. Seek appropriate medical assistance.

Olemiss540
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by Olemiss540 » Sun Jan 28, 2018 10:26 am

You are not investing, you are gambling. Plain and simple. Why do you think someone addicted to blackjack comes back the next day after loosing a large sum of money? Regret? Missing that big hand because they under bet? Remembering the one time they hit it big? Sad to watch others win big money next to them?

You need to do what I believe someone addicted to gambling needs to do before you put your familys financial future at risk.

Quit.
No trading.
No stock picking.
No researching.
No websites regarding finance or investing.
Cold turkey (and if that isn't realistic, counseling)

3 fund or all in one portfolio, and once it is set on auto - leave it alone until your mental health has improved drastically and ONLY THEN can you peak infrequently to rebalance.

You are NOT smarter than the market, and any conception that you can over/under perform the efficient market is a symptom of gambling that will bite you. Just my opinion and I have ZERO credibility aside from personally having this financial approach and recently giving up bad habits.
I hold index funds because I do not overestimate my ability to pick stocks OR stock pickers.

Joe_R95
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by Joe_R95 » Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:03 am

harvestbook wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 9:39 am
Counseling is an acceptable reaction to an irrational behavior that causes this degree of crippling distress.

In the meantime, Jason Zweig's "Your Money and Your Brain" may provide some insight into emotional responses to money.
+1 The book is awesome and goes over all your behavioral issues. The solution to your problem is to write a detailed IPS, follow it, and automate it as much as is possible so you aren't counting your pennies everyday. A single balanced fund might even be your best friend. Then find a new hobby to obsess over. Learn to dance, take up golf, let the money do what it does.

bogleuser24
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by bogleuser24 » Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:04 am

livesoft wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 10:02 am
What does your spouse say about all this? Why not turn all investing tasks over to your spouse?
She thinks I am being silly and shouldn't focus on hindsight. She doesn't have any interest in investing other than giving it up to someone else to manage it. At that point, would make more sense to do one of the Vanguard target funds.

dbr
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by dbr » Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:06 am

bogleuser24 wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:04 am
livesoft wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 10:02 am
What does your spouse say about all this? Why not turn all investing tasks over to your spouse?
She thinks I am being silly and shouldn't focus on hindsight. She doesn't have any interest in investing other than giving it up to someone else to manage it. At that point, would make more sense to do one of the Vanguard target funds.
Crippling anxiety is not silly. But only you can judge if self-control will solve this or if professional help is needed. I can only react to what you say.

metalworking
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by metalworking » Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:16 am

I find that my anxiety about money has increased significantly as I think i have almost reached/reached my FI goal and am contemplating early retirement (and the risk that entails). Are you contemplating a major life change where the loss of money could be felt as more of acute threat. I am not trying to be a psychologist but what does the money represent to you.

ChinchillaWhiplash
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by ChinchillaWhiplash » Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:18 am

You gotta just set it and forget it. Remove the emotion from investing. Sounds like you should invest in index funds and let it ride. Hard to keep feelings out of it, but that is how you invest successfully. Learn to let go and check it once a year for rebalancing. If the market crashes, you ignore it and rebalance. It will correct itself if you do. If you can't do this on your own, find a GOOD financial adviser that will stay the course with your hard earned money.

staythecourse
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by staythecourse » Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:21 am

bogleuser24 wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:59 am
I have no history of mental illness but this has progressed to the point where it has made it nearly impossible to concentrate and focus on any task without something triggering these thought loops.
Without a doubt this is pathological. It is NOT an investment problem, but likely some mental health issue, i.e. anxiety, OCD, etc...

Best to see a mental health expert to get a better idea of how to deal with it.

Good luck.

p.s. Yes I am a doctor who sees A LOT of mental health issues in patents.
"The stock market [fluctuation], therefore, is noise. A giant distraction from the business of investing.” | -Jack Bogle

bogleuser24
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by bogleuser24 » Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:28 am

staythecourse wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:21 am
bogleuser24 wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:59 am
I have no history of mental illness but this has progressed to the point where it has made it nearly impossible to concentrate and focus on any task without something triggering these thought loops.
Without a doubt this is pathological. It is NOT an investment problem, but likely some mental health issue, i.e. anxiety, OCD, etc...

Best to see a mental health expert to get a better idea of how to deal with it.

Good luck.

p.s. Yes I am a doctor who sees A LOT of mental health issues in patents.
Thank you for that perspective of this being possibly being pathological, it should not be this consuming.

Luckywon
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by Luckywon » Sun Jan 28, 2018 11:34 am

Obvious to me that you need professional help, specifically psychotherapy, which has helped me for similar issues.

Because of the ACA, coverage for mental health is generally improved, but choose someone in network or it will be expensive and could just add to your problem. Be prepared to switch therapists until you find someone suitable for you.

Start soon and good luck.

magicrat
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by magicrat » Sun Jan 28, 2018 12:05 pm

+1 for therapy. Also checkout the Headspace mindfullness app. Mindfullness exercises, which only take 10 minutes a day, help retrain your brain to deal with these thoughts in a productive way.

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Wildebeest
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by Wildebeest » Sun Jan 28, 2018 12:09 pm

Go with the Vanguard's professional Advisor Services.

You may find "Why Buddhism is true. The science and philosophy of meditation enlightenment" by Robert Wright of value.
The Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.

stan1
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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by stan1 » Sun Jan 28, 2018 12:13 pm

bogleuser24 wrote:
Sun Jan 28, 2018 8:59 am

I have no history of mental illness but this has progressed to the point where it has made it nearly impossible to concentrate and focus on any task without something triggering these thought loops.
I think it is a good sign that you have the self awareness to understand the situation is not normal and might be complicated. We can't provide medical advice on this forum but I think you should follow your instincts. If despite the self awareness you can't unplug and disconnect you'd want to seek additional help.

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Re: Investment thought loops have been destroying me

Post by LadyGeek » Sun Jan 28, 2018 12:25 pm

This thread has run its course and is locked (now discussing medical advice (psychological)). As a reminder, see: Medical Issues
Questions on medical issues are beyond the scope of the forum. If you are looking for medical information online, I suggest you start with the Medical Library Association's User's Guide to Finding and Evaluating Health Information on the Web which, in addition to providing guidance on evaluating health information, includes a list of their top recommended sites.
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