Health information online is breeding a generation of cyberchondriacs - people who needlessly fear the worst diagnosis after surfing the net, say researchers.
You may be a cyberchondriac if …
… you feel worse after Web surfing instead of better
"If research on the Internet helps to make you feel empowered, and engaged in a dialogue with your doctor, it's helpful," DiMatteo says. "But if it makes your heart rate go up, that's potentially problematic.
Or to put it another way: "If you feel more scared and confused after being on the computer for half an hour, that's not good," says Dr. Vicki Rackner, a surgeon and patient advocate.
… your doctor's reassurances don't help
"I don't have a problem with people fishing around on the Internet to see what diseases they might have," Barsky says. "For most people, a doctor's reassurances that they're fine is adequate. I worry about the people for whom that isn't enough, and whose concerns persist and go right back on the Internet."
… you move quickly from suspicion to conviction
If you quickly become convinced your shaking hands are Parkinson's disease, or your sore throat is an immune deficiency, you need to back away, our panel of experts says. Investigate your symptoms if you like, but leave the diagnosing to the doctors.
How to avoid becoming a cyberchondriac
Barsky suggests putting limits on your surfing right from the start.
"Plan in advance what you want to find out, what the question is you're trying to answer, and how much time you're willing to spend on it," he says. "If you find yourself exceeding those limits, you should ratchet it down."
Here is a link from the BBC:
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