Whenever our bodies feel different, many of us head straight to websites like WebMD to see if our symptoms are something to worry about. Lists of horrifying diseases can populate our screens, hastening us to schedule an appointment with our doctor so we can be treated as soon as possible.
However, more often than not, we walk away with a clean bill of health. Why is that? We’ve done extensive research and know something must be wrong with us. So why didn’t the doctor find anything? Instead of cancer, heart disease, or a stroke, we’ve most likely contracted something that’s affecting millions of people today: WebMD hypochondria.
What Is WebMD Hypochondria?
In our technologically-advanced society, we have come to depend on the internet and our devices for our day-to-day living, even beyond the advice of an actual person. This was how WebMD hypochondria was born.
WebMD hypochondria, better known as cyberchondria, is a type of anxiety disorder that involves many of the same symptoms as health anxiety. You fear the symptoms you experience — normal or not — are indicative of a horrible disease. This leads to worry and an overall mental strain.
However, when the internet is thrown into the mix, these affects only heighten. Due to the almost unlimited access people have to the internet and free apps, the rates of cyberchondria have only increased. With just a click of a button, we can peruse vast amounts of information from all over the world in a matter of seconds.
Although there are many informative websites and apps concerning your health, not all of them are created by experts in the field. It’s perfectly normal to perform a cursory search on symptoms that concern you. In no way is it unhealthy to see if what you’re feeling is a cause for concern.
It becomes a problem, though, if you’re on your computer researching for hours multiple times a day. When checking your symptoms online begins to interfere with your work and personal life, you know you have cyberchondria.
Why Cyberchondria Is Worse Than You Think
Cyberchondria isn’t some inexpensive hobby people pick up to pass time. When you think something is seriously wrong with you, you will want a doctor to confirm. This can involve expensive visits and tests — most of which will be unnecessary.
Unfortunately, another symptom of cyberchondria is the need for second, third and even more doctor’s opinions if one does not confirm the disease you think you have. This could lead you to try to treat yourself, possibly purchasing remedies that may not actually be good for your health.
Not only that, cyberchondria puts a considerable dent in your mental health too — an issue many young adults face today. In fact, online symptom checking heightens the anxiety cyberchondriacs feel. When we seek reassurance about our health from the internet, we actually receive the opposite.
After all, how at peace would you feel if you thought your persistent eye twitch meant brain cancer? The more we search, the worse we’re likely to feel. It’s a vicious cycle that feeds your cyberchondria instead of remedies it.
What to Do If You’re a Cyberchondriac
Thankfully, cyberchondria is not as expensive to treat as some of the diseases you may think you have. The best thing you can do for yourself is to stop looking. You won’t find relief by doing extensive research on diseases you do not have.
If that seems too much to ask, then stick with websites that are credible. There are many sites out there spreading inaccurate and misleading information. To better self-diagnose, you need to at least be getting your intel from reputable sources like .gov and .edu sites.
However, your best source of information will always be a doctor. Although millennials are more health conscious than older generations, doctors are usually better at diagnosing patients than the average layperson.
Whatever concerns you have, bring them up to a medical professional and they’ll be able to tell you if there’s something you should really worry about. If these tips still don’t help, then you may need to consider therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy to help with your cyberchondria.
Even though cyberchondria is not as life-threatening as some of the diseases you can find online, it’s just as serious. Cyberchondria negatively affects your health just like any other ailment. This condition can steal your peace and contentment, which can lead to a scared and unfulfilling existence.
Instead of worrying about what you might have, take into account all the things you do have so you don’t miss out on life. So step away from your computer and schedule an appointment with your doctor if you’re truly worried. Like the old adage says, “you can’t trust everything you read on the internet.”