Online Self-Diagnosis: Are you a Cyberchondriac?

Online Self-Diagnosis: Are you a Cyberchondriac?
December 12, 2014 Melissa Bauman

Cyberchondriac Let’s say you feel sick. You are experiencing fatigue, muscle soreness, nausea, and have a headache. What is your first course of action: call your doctor or turn to the Internet?

If your answer was the latter, you aren’t alone. One Internet study found that three-quarters of respondents say they use websites to diagnose their symptoms before seeing a physician.

It’s easy to see why self-diagnosing on the Internet has become so incredibly popular. We feel powerful, almost in control of our health care. With the click of a mouse we can have access to an unlimited supply of medical knowledge, saving us the time, money, and energy scheduling a doctors visit requires. It seems like the perfect answer…right?

Wrong. Self-diagnosis online is inaccurate, panic inducing, and unreliable. In the same study, 90% of those who followed up with their doctor found their self-diagnosis to be wrong. And more than half of the respondents said the Internet diagnosis caused them to panic.

With the above-mentioned symptoms, we could have two self-diagnoses: the flu or Ebola. Having the flu means taking medication, while having Ebola requires hospital quarantine. The average ‘Google-er” doesn’t know how to distinguish between Ebola symptoms and flu symptoms, and all too soon can be burdened with anxiety over their hypothetical life threatening illness!

This can lead to a cycle of anxiety, known as “cyberchondria,” or hypochondria related to the Internet. Cyberchondriacs will obsessively research symptoms and diagnose themselves with serious diseases.

While Internet self-diagnosis seems like a practical solution to life’s medical questions, it’s always best to consult your doctor, or, if you’re ill after-hours, visit your local Urgent Care for Kids clinic. After all, can an hour of Internet research really compete with years in medical school?

It’s the time of year when everyone seems to be coming down with sore throats, coughs, stomach bugs, and sneezes. So if and when you decide to diagnose symptoms online, do so with caution, and always follow up with your primary care physician. When your pediatrician’s office is closed, Urgent Care for Kids is the best resource. You will save time and money by visiting one of our clinics, and have the peace of mind that your child is getting quality, accurate medical care – not just an online diagnosis!

When it comes to your or your child’s health, you can never be too careful.


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