Are You a “Cyberchondriac”?

by Pete Genot on February 22, 2009 · 1 comment

Cyberchondria,” or Internet self-diagnosis, is a tendency to enter symptoms related to minor ailments into an Internet search engine and diagnose yourself with serious medical conditions. Millions of Americans are using the Internet to self-diagnose and many people only focus on the fatal diseases as opposed to the more typical explanations.


Not long ago, I woke up suddenly around 3:00 am with sharp stomach cramps. I was cold, but sweating profusely…and I felt like I was going to throw-up. I quietly slipped out of bed so I didn’t wake my wife, Melanie, and ran to our guest bathroom.


I don’t want to go into too much detail about what happened after that. Let’s just say I spent the rest of the night sitting on toilet wishing I were dead and moaning like a wounded animal. After 8 hours of crawling back and forth between our bed and the toilet, Melanie decided to use a very popular website with a “symptom checker” to see what was wrong with me. Based on my symptoms, it spit out 20 possible conditions including:

  • Gastroenteritis
  • Campylobacter
  • Radiation Sickness
  • C. difficile
  • Cholera
  • Celiac Disease

Because of my symptoms, the website advised me to seek immediate medical attention. Turns out I just had a simple stomach virus that didn’t require medical care, but it caused unnecessary worrying by both me and my wife, six hours of our time in the emergency room and $500 plus in insurance deductible and co-pay charges. I learned a very expensive lesson!


Dr. Anthony Douglas, an internist in Maitland, Florida, and Dr. Bradley Block, a family physician in Oviedo, Florida, recommend the following guidelines for health-related Web searches:

  • Only look up something you know you have.
  • Use the Internet to provide good educational material, but look at it with the proper perspective.
  • Don’t panic about the [number of] possible diagnoses.
  • Avoid symptom-checker websites.
  • It’s OK to look at reputable medical sites, but talk to your physician about their “conclusions.”

Source: The Orlando Sentinel


[Editor’s Comments: Have you ever been guilty of “Cyberchondria”? Please leave a comment and tell us your story.]


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1 Cheli February 27, 2009 at 4:14 pm

I am a “cyberchondriac”!!!

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