Exposing Cyberchondria

Think before typing your symptoms on the 'search bar'

The internet is a gold mine of knowledge, covering everything from the most esoteric subjects to the most recent and popular news. Free knowledge is essentially at our fingertips because of the growth of the internet. Many people take advantage of this benefit to look up facts, recipes, and memes as well as diagnose illnesses based on their present-day symptoms.

The latter part of this could be concerning because worrying about our health is only a click away. Some individuals tend to assume that because it appears as though the internet has the solutions to every problem, it also has the solutions to health issues. While that is somewhat true, it does not guarantee the authenticity and reliability of the information. 

Almost everything you see on the internet is best consumed with a grain of salt.

Let’s delve into Cyberchondria

Cyberchondria is a term coined to refer to people who use the internet as their main source of reference to diagnose their ailments or symptoms. This phrase specifically applies to those who frequently use the internet to look up signs and symptoms of illnesses, and then become upset and worried about the numerous diagnoses they may discover.

It’s closely tied to the term hypochondria in which both conditions consist of excessive worrying about one’s health. In other words, cyberchondria is an extension of hypochondria with the addition of the internet.


What is health anxiety?

An illogical and compulsive fear of developing a major medical condition is known as health anxiety. It can also be referred to as Hypochondria. A person with this syndrome will often imagine having bodily signs of illness.

Or, in other instances, it’s a person mistaking minor or typical bodily sensations for major disease symptoms despite being told by medical specialists that they are healthy.

Who is most vulnerable when it comes to Cyberchondria and Hypochondria?

Experts theorise that if you’re generally a person who worries a lot, you may be more likely to worry excessively about your health. In some circumstances, excessive worrying can also be a symptom of underlying mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety disorders.

What is the difference between general worry about one’s health and health anxiety?

It’s normal to feel worried if your body is letting you know that you’re ill. However, if you’re constantly thinking that you’re experiencing a symptom (or symptoms) of an illness, it may be a sign of health anxiety. 

It’s not normal when this worry debilitates you to the point where you’re unable to function or go about your day-to-day life. People with health anxiety also tend to not believe or may be skeptical about the results of a doctor’s report if it came back negative as they’re convinced that they are indeed experiencing said disease.

What may be the signs of health anxiety?

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), health anxiety can be characterised by the following (but not limited to):

  • Excessive worry about medical problems.
  • Continuously screening the body for disease such as signs of illness, lumps, or pain.
  • Obsessively looking for information pertaining to health on any form of media.

Tips to manage cyberchondria

#1 Learn to challenge your beliefs

Try to be conscious and differentiate between your general worry and your excessive worrying. Ask yourself important questions like:

  • Is this what my body truly feels or am I overthinking?
  • How reliable is this information on the internet?

#2 Consult a doctor to get a clearer perspective on your qualms

Medical experts like doctors know best when it comes to credible diagnoses of symptoms you may be experiencing. Please trust your doctor’s input and get second opinions from a different doctor if needed.

#3 Consult a mental health expert if health anxiety is debilitating

If this condition interferes with your quality of life and impacts your work, academic life, or relationships, please consider seeking help from reliable experts to help improve your livelihood.

This is a Whitecoat 360 article. Whitecoat 360 aims to bridge the gap between healthcare providers and the community. Looking to increase brand visibility for your independent pharmacy? Join Whitecoat 360 as an advisor! You can check out www.whitecoat360.com for further Information. 

Source: Healthline, Mayo Clinic, NHS England