We’ve all been there once or twice – you find yourself with a minor pain anywhere in your body, take to Google to see what it could be and there’s your answer…you have cancer, HIV and West Nile Virus all at the same time and will be lucky to live another day.
Millions of healthy people from all over the world are falling into the trap of looking up illnesses and diseases online, only to recognize some of the symptoms listed and immediately diagnose themselves with the condition on-screen. As far as psychologists are concerned, those that worry enough about their health to take to the web generally get absolutely zero comfort or help from doing so – they just end up making things worse and can even end up physically sick with worry.
The condition has been given the name “Cyberchondria” and is known to be on the rise all over the western world.
Websites and forums can be excellent places to seek advice and assistance on most subjects, but health is different story. The trouble in this instance is that people in growing numbers are looking for their respective diagnosis online instead of taking their concerns to their doctors. This poses a double-ended risk as not only are most diagnosing themselves entirely inaccurately, but their actual health conditions that could require treatment are going unaddressed.
Recent studies have concluded that Cyberchondria can lead individuals into an unbreakable cycle of undue stress and worry, leading to genuinely detrimental psychological and physical effects, not to mention unnecessary trips to the doctor and even the ER. As far as medical experts are concerned, there is simply far too much inaccurate and potentially harmful advice available at the click of a mouse.
“If I am someone who does not like uncertainty, I may become more anxious, search further, monitor my body more, go to the doctor more frequently – and the more you search, the more you consider the possibilities,” said Baylor University researcher Dr. Thomas Fergus.
“If I see a site about traumatic brain injuries and have difficulties tolerating uncertainty, I might be more likely to worry that is the cause of the bump on my head.”
Approximately 80% of all Americans are known to use the internet for looking up health advice and seeking a diagnosis during suspected illness.