Are you a cyberchondriac?

web bombIt’s a new word to me, but today I learned it’s been around since 1999 (way back then!)

Recognizing the web as fertile ground for those who fantasize they are suffering from some dreadful malady, “cyberchondria” was coined as the internet version of hypochondria, of course.

As the moderator on the Research Help Board at HealthBoards.com (MisdiagnosisMOD) and the Medical Research on the Internet expert at AllExperts.com, I usually hear from people who ask really good questions about a diagnosis or treatment option.  Sometimes, too, I hear from folks who can’t get a diagnosis — their doctors are flummoxed.  I do my best to help them learn more because having symptoms with no clear diagnosis is a horrible limbo to be in.

But sometimes I am contacted by people who ask questions such as, “I have a pain behind my left ear.  Do I have brain cancer?”  This comes a week or two after a previous question such as, “I can’t find my car keys.  Do I have Alzheimer’s Disease?”

Now — I do appreciate that people are tuned in to their bodies.  Always good.

HOWEVER — using the internet to make the leap from a small pain to brain cancer, or forgotten car keys to Alzheimer’s disease is simply cyberchondrism at its best.  Maybe someone DOES have those diseases, but if so, then they likely have other symptoms, too.  Their bigger pain will come from the fences they tripped over while jumping to such dire conclusions.

Cyberchondria is a word for our times.  I hope you won’t get caught in its (ahem…) web! A sharp patient will avoid it at all costs.

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