Cyberchondria: How the internet could be making you more health anxious

The condition has been associated with symptoms of health anxiety.

Cyberchondria: How the internet could be making you more health anxious
© Getty/ Sergey Dementyev
Cyberchondria: How the internet could be making you more health anxious

Truth be told, many of us turn to the internet for answers to numerous questions ranging from financial, relationship, to physical and mental health. There are countless health advice sites that offer diagnosis and treatments with just a few clicks. For most people who turn to the internet for health advice, they end up with heightened anxiety.

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Cyberchondria is an extension of hypochondria which according to Alan Lampson, a medical librarian, is worrying over an imagined illness with exaggerated symptoms. This condition, also known as illness anxiety disorder, could last for months, causing significant distress.

Unfortunately, with the wealth of information, accurate or inaccurate, that’s available on the Internet, many hypochondriacs turned into cyberchondriacs. That’s a person who compulsively searches the Internet for information on real or imagined symptoms of illness.

A 2013 study by the Pew Research Centre showed that 72% of internet users surveyed admitted that they searched for health information online. A similar study found that 10% of participants who turn to the internet for answers to health questions felt anxiety and fear over the information they got online.

Getty/ Delmaine Donson


There are quite a number of reasons why constantly browsing the internet for information about your health is a bad idea. According to Lampson who was quoted in an article on the University of Vermont Health Network, being cyberchondriac could make you delay going to see a doctor. Convincing yourself that you know what might be wrong with you, may cause you to fear that a doctor will dismiss your concerns.

Once you’ve decided you have something, you don’t want to go to a doctor and have them tell you otherwise.

On the other hand, you might also avoid going to the doctor’s because you dread a confirmation of what you suspect might be wrong with you.

Once you assure yourself on what might be off with your health, the next thing you do is to search online for treatment.

…it may cause them to stop taking a medication that they’re taking. It may cause them to seek out medications from other people who have the same condition.

Above all, self-diagnosis causes you unnecessary anxiety that could plunge you into depression.

Source used:

The University of Vermont Health Network: Cyberchondria: Could you have it?

Healthline: Confessions of a Cyberchondriac

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