How To Know If You’re a “Cyberchondriac”

Ya gotta love Dr. Google.  Every time an ailment befalls us we go online for a fast and free diagnosis, so much so that they’ve created a word for us: “cyberchondriac,” which is literally defined as, “a person who compulsively searches the Internet for information on real or imagined symptoms of illness.”

It’s a good-bad thing.  “The internet has kind of made things worse for people that have anxiety over their health,” says Dr. Nick Solomos, a physician with Kelsey-Seybold. But even when patients come in with a self-diagnosis that is widely off the mark Dr. Solomos won’t find fault with the practice. “I think that’s a natural tendency.  It’s a survival benefit to think of what’s the worst-case scenario and then work back from that.”

We all do it, he says. “Usually the way we see it is someone who has concerns about symptoms their experiencing, and they automatically attribute it to a serious illness,” Dr. Solomos tells KTRH News.

How do you know if you’ve gone overboard?  This Psychology Today article from 2016 indicates the Top 5 Ways to Know if You’re a Cyberchondriac:”

You check online for symptom information from up to 1 to 3 hours per day. On average, people high in illness anxiety spent a little over 2 hours a day as a high point during the past month on their worst day. In contrast, people low in illness anxiety spent less than an hour, or 1 hour at the most on their very worst days.

You fear having several different diseases: Those high in illness anxiety feared having nearly 5 diseases compared to their low illness anxiety counterparts, who feared having less than 2. How many diseases do you think you might have?

On your worst day, you’ve checked 3 to 4 times a day: People high in illness anxiety not only spend more time, but also take more opportunities to search online for information on their symptoms. Those low in illness anxiety check perhaps once a day, if that, even when they're feeling the sickest.

Looking online to get symptom information makes you feel more anxious: If those high in illness anxiety are trying to reassure themselves, their online probing is only making them worse. During and after their checking sessions, they report far higher anxiety than individuals scoring low on the illness anxiety scale.

Your health is actually medically stable: Although people high in illness anxiety had higher self-reported disability, their health hasn’t undergone major changes. They were actually less likely to have an unstable medical illness than were those low in illness anxiety.

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