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Cyberchondria: Internet Can Hinder Road To Staying Healthy

Cyberchondria: Internet Can Hinder Road To Staying Healthy

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 Physician 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 relationship.”

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, 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 much more.

“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.