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CYBERCHONDRIA

Landing on to a medical terminology named after the word ‘cyber’, do you now realize how influenced we are by this age of internet?

If you’ve ever researched your health problems online to anxiety producing results, you’re not alone.

This is not a disease, but a health anxiety disorder or somatic symptom disorder caused due to the ill effects of using internet as the regular web health-checker. Cyberchondria is derived from the terms ‘cyber’ and ‘hypochondria’, where hypochondriacs are those ‘who are excessively preoccupied worrying aboutone’s health’, and cyberchondriacs are those ‘who compulsively search the Internet for information about particular real or imagined symptoms of illness’.

Internet has made globalization of medicine possible and allowed physicians to be cognizant of diseases and health care services beyond the local boundaries. Global travel has also amplified the spread of a disease; the Internet has transformed the flow of medical information throughout the world, allowing telemedicine and international consultation. On the whole internet has had a very positive effect on the practice of medicine, allowing physicians and patients to access a wide range on information instantaneously.

Patients, too, are turning to the Internet in increasing numbers to collect information about their probable illness and modes of treatment, which has pros & cons depending on its usage. Self-diagnoses can only sometimes be a savior from something worse to occur, but however in almost 99% of the cases it makes ones health anxious to such a great extent that he/she may always feel to be sufferingwith some or the other illness.

Being concerned about your health is not identified to be a cyberchondriac but being overly concerned and always checking about the benign symptoms over the internet makes one anxious about his/her health, which results in taking increased medical appointmentsto find out the wrong, when there is none but just a little something that is stuck in your head after reading the probable disease diagnosis given by Dr. Google, which worsens health anxiety also the person ends up loosing a lot of time and money under this. Such a manifestation of health anxiety is called being a cyberchondriac and this phenomenon is termed as cyberchondria.

Sitting for hours and reading about your symptoms and imagining to be suffering with them all can cause adverse effects due to the stress and anxiety taken when it was just mere indisposition. However, the claims that a cyberchondriac/hypochondriac makes of their symptoms are very much true and felt by them, which should be taken acknowledged by the physician, as their search over the internet makes them vulnerable to symptoms.

Information from the web is often of unregulated accuracy where benign symptom inquiry into a search engine is likely to return a disproportionately high rate of unlikely explanations, such as a life-threatening illness. For instance, if that headache plaguing you this morning led you first to a Web search and then to the conclusion that you must have a brain tumor, you may instead be suffering from cyberchondria.

One constantly uses Internet for our health related queries because:
1. All the stories that we hear that resulted in causing fatal results to your near ones..
2. Nobody wants to die.
3. Stressful world with the growing usage of social media,where the comparison and jealously amongst people has increasingly grown causing vulture like behavior of humans.

Internet and many other health factors also can trigger health anxiety like, going through a stressful period of your life, like an illness or death in your family. Sometimes, your health worry is a symptom of depression or anxiety disorder, which needs to be recognized in because subconsciously we’re seeking attention from our friends and family.
In many of these cases, seeing a therapist or a counselor is always helpful.

 

Tips for a cyberchondriac attack

  • Don’t shame yourself.
  • Question your beliefs.
  • Drop into your body and meditate.
  • Talk about your fears with your primary care doctor to learn coping strategies.
  • Remember it’s not only you.

Before you Google the next time take a deep breath and stop yourself!
Instead, take a piece of paper and pen down the causes of your stress.
Eventually, the anxiety will come down!
All to say, that with enough compassion and presence of mind, cyberchondria is manageable.

REFERENCES:
1. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/cyberchondriac
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5952212/
3. https://www.healthline.com/health/cyberchondria-modern-day-hypochondriac#6
4. Harrisons Principles of internal medicine 19th Ed.Vol1 Chapter1 Pg. No.7

BY:

MAHEK SINGH
BHMS, 2nd Year.

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