Cyberchondria is a relatively new term that refers to people who tend to look up medical information on the Internet, and who may already be suffering from hypochondria. A hypochondriac is a person who believes that he or she is ill but who does not upon medical examination appear to have any medically obvious reasons for such feelings. Hypochondriacs are often truly suffering, but their illnesses are of a psychological origin and not related to the diseases they think they may have.
The term cyberchondria has evolved to express how a hypochondriac may not be served by the ease of gathering medical information online. With hosts of descriptions of medical illnesses, it can be quite easy for people who believe they are ill to think they have a variety of diseases. In fact, some physicians are concerned that the availability of medical information online may turn the person who sometimes thinks he or she is ill into a person who is constantly concerned about sickness. In other words, such people may be at considerable risk for cyberchondria.
Though this condition has been identified as a possible result of searching on the Internet for medical information, it certainly shouldn’t serve as an encouragement to limit access to such information. People who have rare diseases have been able to find much more about the treatments of their conditions that may help them make important choices about options or care for their conditions. Online medical information can prove particularly helpful, though it does have to be approached with caution, since it can either be inappropriate to the person searching or grossly inaccurate.
For those suffering from cyberchondria, the medical information online can make people feel even more sick, or they may demand more expensive medical tests to look for illnesses they do not have. The suffering of a hypochondriac is completely legitimate in most cases, and the mind can work on the body to make a person feel like they are chronically ill or in pain. Researching conditions online can increase the opportunities for a hypochondriac to feel terrible. Believing that you are sick can also lead to incredible stress, which may only amplify feelings of illness.
People at risk for cyberchondria use the Internet frequently and may already have hypochondria or be on the borderline of developing this illness. They may also suffer from generalized anxiety disorder or depression. With psychiatric help and therapy the cyberchondriac may recover, and some people recover on their own. It is important to understand that people who might suffer from this condition are not “faking it to get attention.” The reasons why people may believe they’re ill and worry about it can be very complex.
If you feel like reading information on the Internet about medical conditions is making you feel like you might be sick, you should perhaps take a break from it. On the other hand, seeing your doctor may be a good idea if you suspect you are ill. Most people suffering from cyberchondria can benefit from treatment, which may be suggested by your physician and pursued with a licensed therapist.