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Cyberchondria: 6 Awesome Ways to Fight Cyberchondria

Cyberchondria is the fear and distress experienced after learning health information online. Keep reading to find out more about cyberchondria and learn the signs of cyberchondria and how to manage it. 

The internet provides convenient access to information, and more and more people are consulting health care providers because of distressing information they find online. Cyberchondria is the phenomenon of anxiety from health information found online.

Someone with cyberchondria may worry excessively about their health after an internet search for medical information. People with cyberchondria typically seek out this type of information often, performing health and medical-related web searches frequently.

Cyberchondria involves a pattern of repetitive and excessive internet-symptom-checking behavior. This condition is related to an underlying health anxiety condition and a psychological state known as non-reassurability. Non-reassurability is when you believe you’re sick even after a health care provider has told you otherwise. Instead, you think the health care provider is wrong, and you can’t be reassured. 

The term cyberchondria is derived from the word hypochondria, which is the fear that minor symptoms indicate a serious illness. Both conditions are similar in that they involve excessive worry about health. Researchers estimate that more people are affected by cyberchondria because so many people have access to the internet. Without the internet, someone who experiences hypochondria has to visit the library or a health care provider’s office to get more information about their health and symptoms. With the rise of the internet, people can access an endless amount of data online in just a few clicks. 

One survey of 500 people found that one in five people experienced escalated health anxiety after conducting a search online.

Having an obsession or fixation about being sick is one of the main signs of cyberchondria. Additionally, this obsession can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Cyberchondria often leads to higher stress. This stress can then cause health problems such as headaches, elevated blood pressure, muscle tension, and a weakened immune system. 

Cyberchondria can result in nonmedical issues as well. Relationships with friends, family, and partners may be affected as loved ones become tired of hearing someone constantly discuss their health concerns.

Additionally, cyberchondria can affect your career. If you continually take time off work because you think you’re sick, it can affect your work performance. 

People with cyberchondria often experience financial consequences of their condition. This can stem from missing work or paying for numerous medical tests and expensive treatments for diseases they don’t have. Additionally, many people with cyberchondria purchase expensive treatments online (since their health care provider won’t diagnose or prescribe them anything). These treatments may not be legitimate, leading the person with cyberchondria to spend a lot of money trying different treatments to find one that will work. 

Some telltale signs that you might be experiencing cyberchondria include the following:

  • You search for health information online, again and again, to feel less anxious. However, this information usually ends up making you feel more anxious. 
  • You spend so much time searching for health information online that it is influencing your life. Many of us check health websites from time to time, but someone with cyberchondria does this obsessively. These searches may take you away from your hobbies, work, or social life. 
  • You seek reassurance from chat groups, social media, and other online platforms. Asking unqualified friends for reassurance that you’re okay instead of speaking to and trusting the opinion of a health care provider is a concerning sign.
  • You frequently visit health care providers, and these appointments interfere with your work and relationships. 

Experts suspect that people with cyberchondria can spend several hours per day researching their health concerns and often fear they have several conditions at once.

There are steps you can take to manage cyberchondria. 

Schedule routine checkups with your health care provider to confirm that you’re healthy. Your health care provider can let you know what an appropriate frequency for these checkups should be.

Follow a lifestyle that includes a healthy, balanced diet, plenty of restful sleep, and exercise. This will increase your chances of being in good health and can also help reduce anxiety.

People with cyberchondria are prone to anxiety. Practicing stress management techniques, such as meditation and yoga, can help reduce anxiety. Additionally, meditation can help you remain calm when your brain feels overactive. If you’re experiencing cyberchondria and begin to focus on your health symptoms, meditation techniques can help you quiet your mind.

When a symptom seems to persist for several days, it can be helpful to get an opinion from a health care provider. The personalized opinion of a health care expert is a more reliable source of information than the internet.

The most beneficial step you can take to manage cyberchondria is to avoid looking up medical information on the internet. Taking periodic breaks from the internet can help distract you from health concerns. If it’s necessary to look up medical information online, make sure to look for credible sources. A reliable medical source will have scientific and medical research references to back up the statements it’s making.

People with cyberchondria can help manage their condition by asking themselves a few questions before they perform an internet search:

  • What is my current state of mind?
  • Why am I performing this search?
  • Do I understand that the internet is not the only credible source for this type of information?

Before performing a search online, always ask yourself if you can find credible and reliable health advice elsewhere. 

If you have cyberchondria, it’s highly likely you also have health anxiety. If either of these conditions is affecting your daily life, it can be very beneficial to seek the help of a mental health professional. If you notice that your cyberchondria is negatively affecting your relationships, work, or quality of life, it’s become a problem. With help, you can identify and explore factors that contribute to your cyberchondria and learn how to address and manage them. 

Cyberchondria is a common condition in which a person experiences increased health anxiety after searching for medical information online. Access to information online makes almost anybody susceptible to this condition. It’s possible to learn techniques to manage and control cyberchondria patterns, but it’s not always easy. If cyberchondria has started to affect your everyday life, it’s likely time to work with a mental health professional.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6592511/

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336854585_Cyberchondria_Implications_of_Online_Behavior_and_Health_Anxiety_as_Determinants

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5952212/

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