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Do you think the worst when you search for health info online? You may have cyberchondria.

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Do you run to Dr. Google every time you have the slightest ache, pain or other symptom so you can try to figure out what’s wrong? If so, you’re not alone. Many people search online to find out what may be ailing them when they’re not feeling their best. In fact, Google receives more than 1 billion health-related questions per day!

Looking for medical information online has become a normal part of modern life and there are many benefits to being able to find out more about your health, symptoms and disease. But when internet searches start to make you anxious about what may be wrong, it could be doing more harm than good—and you could be suffering from cyberchondria.

What is cyberchondria?

Cyberchondria is similar to hypochondria in that it is characterized by being overly anxious about your health. But this particular term refers to people who excessively use the internet to research symptoms and health conditions—and then get stressed and anxious about the multitude of diagnoses they may read about. The term was coined by the media in the early 2000’s as internet searches skyrocketed.

You may have cyberchondria if you do the following:

    • You compulsively search online for health information.
    • You are worried about having a serious illness, even if your symptoms are minor.
    • You experience more fear and anxiety, rather than relief, from your search.
    • You assume that what you find online is accurate and truthful.
    • You jump to the worst conclusions about your health.

What are the dangers of researching health information online?

Although you may gain some valuable information about your health when searching online, some people are better off avoiding this practice and leaving diagnosing to a health professional. There are a number of reasons why it’s not a great idea to rely on Dr. Google every time you don’t feel quite right. These include:

    • Information accuracy. It’s important to check sources when searching online, especially when it comes to your health. Not all information is valid or accurate.
    • Needless worrying. Relatively minor health symptoms are often listed as signs of more serious health conditions. This can be pretty scary, making you think the worst and worry excessively, even when there’s no need to be concerned.
    • Wasted time. Not only do you potentially waste time worrying about nothing, but you may also waste the valuable time you have with your doctor. If you’re asking questions about everything you read online, it can take away from the time your doctor has to evaluate you in person so you can get some solid answers about what may be ailing you.

What should you do if you have cyberchondria?

If you find that you’re excessively searching for medical information online and it’s causing you stress or anxiety, try to instead speak with your doctor directly about your health concerns. If you can’t get it under control on your own, it may be time to speak to a mental health professional.

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Date Last Reviewed: October 14, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

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