I don't know about you, but I've found the Internet to be one of the best tools available to learn about my health. So I was somewhat surprised this morning to read an article in the Washington Post about Cyberchondria, which was defined as the baseless fueling of fears and anxiety about common health symptoms due to Internet research. The article said this was serious, so much so that two researchers at Microsoft had done a study on it last year and found that about one-third of Internet searchers went from simple terms to more complex health related searches. The study also found that information calmed some people while it made others more anxious.
To me it sounds like what used to happen when people had to go to the library to look up information, with the only difference being that they're going online.
Later in the day I coincidentally met a woman who has a serious and rare health condition. She spent many years working with physicians who refused to take her seriously or help her. She then went online where multiple Internet searches on the symptoms she was experiencing kept pointing to the same, rare diagnosis. It was a condition mainly experienced by older Eastern European men. She then went to yet another physician who said he didn't believe her but was willing to do some diagnostic tests. Sure enough, she had discovered her own rare and hard to pinpoint health condition and, with her physician's eventual support, was able to get the treatment that she'd been denied for years. Today her life is significantly more positive and productive than it was during the years she was making rounds to multiple health providers and getting no support.
Clearly the Internet is a powerful tool that can put a lot of helpful information at our fingertips. It can also be overwhelming and provide so much information we're anxious and worse off than when we started our research. So who can best help us? Sites like EmpowHer, of course. And those wonderful research experts, librarians. There's a great site provided by the Medical Library Association with tips on how you can find the most credible information for your research. The site is at:
I don't know if Cyberchondria is real or not. I do know that the days of managing our health by just passively accepting what we read in a book, or heard from a health practitioner, are long gone. The Internet gives us our own giant health library in the comfort of our own homes, and when used wisely, enables all of us to do a better job of taking care of our own health.
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