Are You a Cyberchondriac??

Amy Hendel Health Guide
  • The internet has been a source of great pleasure and wonderment and.....it also creates access to information that can really confound someone.  There is no doubt that having a portal to almost any piece of information you want to access, especially when it comes to health, is a great thing.  On the other hand, your ability to access that information without safe filters can be an instigating force for serious anxiety and hypochondria.  Let's take an example.

     

    You get a headache and it persists for awhile.  Well, look up headache and of course, along with all the typical differentiating diagnoses that a doctor would typically offer, looms "brain tumor."  Now if a doctor were talking with you, and depending on your presenting symptoms, I'm sure he would do his due diligence by mentioning it as a remote possibility - but when you typically go on the internet - you will not only see brain tumor - but it will feature prominently again and again.  You will also, on many sites, see all kinds of nonsense diagnostics and treatments - which you, the average person, may not see as nonsense.  The same will hold true for "stomach pain," "sore throat," "skin discoloration," and the list goes on and on.  So if you have even a small tendency to dwell on things - you can be very susceptible to cyberchondria.  And you can begin, needlessly I might add, to fear the worst because you self-diagnose, thanks to the internet.

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    A generation of cyberchondriacs is currently emerging thanks to the age of internet technology. It is wonderful to be able to look up symptoms or a condition or to research a medication's side effects.  It is dangerous to sometimes only use the internet as your source of health information.  And it can be deadly to trust certain sites that promote untested or simply ridiculous products as cures for even mild, let alone serious, health issues.  It can also be an intensely anxiety promoting experience to "run loose on the internet," exploring possible health diagnoses that serve to convince you serious pathology is there...when it isn't.

     

    So tread carefully in the various health websites - make sure they are reputable -  and especially when evaluating health advertising.  It can be a wonderful world of helpful information or provide the journey to anxiety for susceptible individuals.

Published On: December 07, 2008