More and more people are using their computers and smartphones to self-diagnose
medical issues. This activity has become so popular that, about 10 years
ago, a British newspaper dubbed it “cyberchondria.”
Cyberchondria is similar to hypochondria, an anxiety disorder in which
one worries excessively that he or she is or may become seriously ill.
There may be no physical symptoms, or minor ones may be believed more
serious than medical exams reveal.
Cyberchondria is spreading at a disturbing rate, according to Family Medicine
Brandi Basso, MD, ofNorth Oaks Primary Care Clinic in Denham Springs. She worries that by turning to the Internet, patients cause themselves
undue stress by becoming preoccupied with their condition or imagining
it to be worse than it truly is.
“It’s great to have the world at your fingertips, but a search
engine should not replace a trusted, professional health care provider,”
Dr. Basso explains. “Some people may take self-diagnosis too far,
and, in their minds, a stuffy nose can become the bird flu, or a tension
headache morphs into a brain tumor.”
The Internet is full of material, including personal stories, videos, bulletin
boards and blogs. Although some are factual and helpful, others may not
be backed by medical science and are nothing more than opinions.
“That can lead to misinformation and needless worrying by the patient.
Younger people and first-time mothers can be particularly vulnerable,”
Dr. Basso notes. “For example, with the best of intentions, a mother
wants to ensure her baby is healthy by seeking out feeding and sleeping
schedules from other mothers or care givers. But, that is a very personal,
very individual situation. A web search should not replace a doctor-patient
Cyberchondriacs also may be more likely to buy “quick fix”
products or order drugs and treatments online, without a proper diagnosis.
Some may even try home remedies that could complicate their conditions
or delay proper care. For those who insist on surfing the web for health
information, Dr. Basso recommends only three types of sites:
government-sponsored health sites that end with “.gov” Example:
established health organization websites that end in “.org” Example:
health education sites of major medical schools and teaching hospitals
that end with “.edu” or “.org” Example:
Dr. Basso suggests one useful tool as
www.northoaks.tv, an interactive medical information site that provides accurate information from
North Oaks Physician Group’s health care providers. The site offers more than 50 videos that address
common health topics, like eye care, women’s health, allergies and
“The videos present concise, physician-approved information and guidance.
The variety of topics is helpful, and the advice is sound,” Dr.
Basso stresses. “To keep your health in perspective, have regular
contact with your personal health care provider. Stay up to date on immunizations
and check-ups, and lead a healthy lifestyle”
For more information, speak with your health care provider or call
North Oaks Primary Care Clinic in
Denham Springs at (225) 664-2451; in
Independence at (985) 878-4174; or in
Livingston at (225) 686-4930.