When it comes to the most-searched topic for Web queries, there’s no doubt that sex tops the list; next comes health-related matters which take up some 2% of all queries on the search engines. Its not surprising therefore that there are a variety of internet-related ailments that can arise from reading too much about health matters on the Internet!
Cyberchondria (aka internet self-diagnosis) is another condition first coined in 2000 and refers to the practice of leaping to dire conclusions while researching health matters online. If that severe headache haunting you in the morning led you to the Web search-engine and convinced you that it is caused by a brain tumour, then the likely diagnosis is probably cyberchondria. People tend to look at the first few results in the search-engine and that froms the basis for them to probe further. For instance, a search on ‘headaches’ could lead to ‘brain tumours’ or ‘meningitis’. The phenomenon has become so pervasive that Microsoft did its own study on the causes of cyberchondria (see here).
Thanks to search engines like Google,many are turning to the Internet for answers to their health issues. New research has revealed four in five Australians are turning to the web for health information and nearly half of those are using Dr Google to make a self-diagnosis.
Leading GPs say people are presenting to the doctor with fears of major health issues when the real problem is minor, while others put off going to their GPs because they believe their issue is not serious.
My advice? While its good for people to know what’s going on in their body, make sure you look at reputable sites only and even then, look at them after your doctor has told you what you have (this will give you a reasonable launching pad to look at other likely possibilities- what doctors call differential diagnoses). One should not scour the internet on the basis of a collection of symptoms only. If there’s one thing the search engines do not have, its the capability of good old human judgement!