Cyberchondria: Web sickness

Posted April 15, 2010 by Katie

How many times have you had some sort of symptom of sickness and run right to the Internet to check out what you may have? Afterall, the Internet is a fantastic resource for most everything, including health information.

Learning about symptoms can make you a more informed person and even help you be more aware of your body, but an overindulgence of online self-diagnosing is called “cyberchondria.”

Cyberchondria: What is it?

Cyberchondria is a term for hypochondria in cyberspace. While the Internet can make you an educated health care consumer, it can also fill your days with worry that you have a serious or fatal disease.

Case in point: Last July, I convinced myself (read: freaked myself out) that an itchy rash on my wrists was (gasp!) scabies. How could I have *that*? 

Like any other computer-savvy person, I consulted what was in front of me: Google®.

If you search for “symptoms of …,” you’ll get pages and pages of information (some more adequate and trustworthy than others), including pictures. It seemed all too easy to come to my diagnosis.

A trip to my PCP revealed that I just had heat rash – and a case of cyberchondria.

Find balance

Though it’s sometimes helpful to research health information online, it’s best to resist the urge to Google every twitch and twinge, and then come to the conclusion that you've got a fatal disease. Common or ambiguous symptoms may apply to a lot of different illnesses. Too much, or the wrong, information can be misleading.

Rely on reputable medical or health Web sites like:

Remember though, even the most reputable sites are no substitute for your doctor. (I’m living proof of that!) Use the Internet to further clarify what your doctor tells you and to help ask intelligent questions.

Be well!

More info

Here are other sites and articles about this topic:

"Internet Makes Hypochondria Worse" (WebMD)

"You're Not Making It Up: You Have Cyberchondria" (Finding Dulcinea)

From one physician's point of view: "Cyberchondria" (Nice Lady Doctor)

Follow us!

Get health and wellness tips and the latest health news on Twitter and Facebook.

Join us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

The information written about in this blog is not intended to be medical advice. Please seek care from a medical professional when you have a health concern.