You’ve heard of hypochondria, but what do you know about cyberchondria?
Cyberchondria is a form of hypochondria in which the person spends hours online Googling symptoms.
People who suffer from cyberchondria usually struggle with anxiety or anxiety disorders. Cyberchondria can disrupt a person’s life. It becomes all-encompassing and only furthers the anxiety the person feels.
Online searches for health information can be counterproductive because there is a lot of misinformation out there.
It’s best to consult with doctors if you’re experiencing health-related symptoms.
What Is Cyberchondria?
Cyberchondria is a manifestation of a person’s anxiety about their health that is made worse by searching online for medical information. It is a form of hypochondria. Cyberchondria affects more people now that the internet is accessible to so many.
People who suffer from cyberchondria diagnose themselves based on online searches. Their anxiety causes them to Google symptoms. They turn to the internet for health information.
Cyberchondria is detrimental to a person’s mental health. It can also affect other areas of their life, such as relationships and work.
Often, people with cyberchondria spend a lot of money on doctor’s visits and unnecessary procedures.
Googling symptoms from a fear of having multiple diseases is one part of cyberchondria. The root of this obsession is anxiety. Many people do online searches for symptoms many times a day. They fear having multiple diseases.
People with cyberchondria may know that Googling symptoms can make them feel more anxious. They do it anyway.
The anxiety they feel about the symptoms is exacerbated by the information they find on the internet. And so the cycle continues.
What Causes Cyberchondria?
Information causes cyberchondria. A little bit of information can be very dangerous to a cyberchondriac. Think about medical students when they’re just starting out. Every time they learn about a new disease, it’s easy for them to self-diagnose. An upset stomach becomes colon cancer. A simple rash due to allergies becomes flesh-eating bacteria. Every time they learn about a new disease they diagnose themselves based on symptoms they think they have. That’s similar to what people with cyberchondria do.
There are several causes of cyberchondria:
- The stories we hear
- Negativity bias
- Free misinformation
- Living in a more stressful world
The Stories We Hear
Thanks to the internet and social media, people hear more stories about illnesses and diseases that they begin to self-diagnose. People Google symptoms they read about on the internet or that they hear about on social media. Suddenly everything they read could be a symptom of an imaginary illness.
Negativity bias means that people are more sensitive to bad news. It’s a survival trait that is part of our human instinct. We’re prone to internalize negative things that we hear or see. We’re hard-wired to experience fear. People with cyberchondria are already set up to increase their anxiety and convince themselves they’re sick.
We also live in a world where free information is everywhere. But not all information is created equal. There is a lot of misinformation available on the internet. When cyberchondriacs Google symptoms, they’ll probably find a slew of diseases that they think they might have based on the information they got from WebMD. The spiral goes on from there.
Living In A More Stressful World
The world is a stressful place, especially for people with anxiety disorders. Cyberchondria is a result of deep-seated anxiety about health symptoms. People with cyberchondria can’t help themselves when they look up health information in an online search.
Why Googling Your Symptoms Makes Everything Worse
People with cyberchondria already feel an immense amount of anxiety.
Googling their symptoms puts them in an out-of-control spiral that they can’t stop. They go down a huge rabbit hole on the internet. Many of them feel shame. This only makes the anxiety worse. Cyberchondriacs are always looking for the worst-case scenario. People start Googling symptoms until they find the “right” bad diagnosis.
The problem is that the more you know about something, the more likely you are to panic. Even if the symptoms are minor, cyberchondriacs will go into full panic mode with every piece of information they get.
How To Find Reliable Health Information Online
If you’re going to Google symptoms in an online search, you should at least know the proper places to look. It’s important to find sources that are credible. Peer-reviewed clinical studies are the first place you should search. Make sure you read the full report or article before diagnosing yourself. Find articles that quote experts on a particular topic or illness.
There are articles that exist online that are reviewed by doctors. Make sure you check to see that the article you’re reading has been reviewed by a medical professional. Try reading primary sources, which are journal articles such as the kind you’ll find on PubMed.
Make sure that the articles you’re reading are recent. They should be written within the last 10 years.
How To Stop Cyberchondria
If you’re going to Google symptoms, use trusted sources. Remember that the internet is a “double-edged sword”. It’s important to be informed, but don’t overdo it with Googling your symptoms or engaging in endless online searches for health information. Try to find ways to calm yourself and quell your anxiety before you take a deep dive into the internet.
If you want to discuss therapy for how to manage cyberchondria, we are here to help. Contact us for a free consultation today.