“Ok Google, severe headache”
About ten links fervently pop up, that show reasons ranging from hangover to brain tumour. To most of us, any trivial reason like hangover or over-sleep would be invisible. It’s funny, how some of our minds even tend to ponder over questions like “what would my family do after I die of brain tumour?”.
This high level of anxiety induced by escalation during online search, to review a health abnormality is knows as cyberchondria. It is a special case of hypochondria also known as illness anxiety disorder, that is, living with the fear of having a serious but undiagnosed medical condition. Depressed people or those prone to anxiety like a pregnant woman or a new mother are more vulnerable to cyberchondria. This obsession over being sick, leads to high degrees of stress which ultimately leads to elevated blood pressure and diseases. Also, due to a perceived illness, the person’s personal as well as professional life might get affected. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, getting regular health check-ups and taking breaks from the internet might help in the starting stages of cyberchondria. But if it causes impairing effects on one’s life, seeking the help of a mental health professional is mandatory.
Why should we always consult a doctor online rather than an online symptom checker?
In an online search, the links that are most frequently clicked rise to the top of the search results. Like mentioned earlier, when search results range from hangover to brain tumour, we tend to click on the worst-case scenario, that is, brain tumour. So, the first to pop up in the search results would be the worst-case scenario, which causes fear and anxiety in us.
Also, the reliability of the sites or symptom checker we refer to is ambiguous. These sites might look like they are authentic but is it worth trusting them with our health? Various blogs and people’s comments on them are a reservoir of conflicting opinions. If we look for help there, we would just get lost in the never-ending contradictions. When the credibility of a site is questionable, going along the lines of its results might make us misdiagnose ourselves and it delays getting some genuine help.
So, consulting a doctor is the smarter choice. Doctors study for years about assessing a patient and all the possibilities for every symptom. Yet, some of us are sceptical about their service and choose online symptom checkers, which is a bad idea. We might have time constraints and the perfect solution to that would be, virtual hospitals or online doctors. They bring authentic health specialists to your doorstep. You can place a query, have a chat or even a video chat with the particular specialist. Doesn’t it sound like the smartest choice?
So, lets open our eyes to the fact that not all symptom checkers and health sites are authentic. Make smart choices and take no chances with your health and life. Let’s not place our faith in deceptive sources and give way for cyberchondria.
Written By: Priyadarshini S. Srinivasan