Worried Sick: Do You Have Cyberchondria?

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    Have you ever gone “symptom-surfing”? Instead of going to the doctor when you get a headache, you go online to figure out why?

    You’re not alone. In fact, with so much medical information on the web, lots of people are doing it.

    The Pew Research Center says 59 percent of adults who use the Internet have searched for health information in the past year, and 35 percent say they’ve gone online trying to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have.

    The trick is not to become fixated on it. Obsessing over such information is actually a condition that experts call “cyberchondria.”

    Psychiatrist Dr. Janet Taylor said that the worst-case scenario for people combing the web for health information is they self-diagnose themselves.

    “They look for self-treatment and they don’t go in necessarily and see their doctor — or go in and see their doctor too much and the fact is they don’t have anything diagnosable,” says Dr. Taylor.

    However, you can find the right balance between being an informed consumer and being obsessed about your own health. Dr. Taylor said that she loves when her patients say “I found this online,” but that you still need to be willing to talk to your doctor and take their advice seriously. Bringing in a list of questions based on your online research can help both you and your health provider discuss your ailment productively.

    Where can you find reliable health information?

    Some medical sites are more reputable than others, and provide helpful information for consumers. Dr. Taylor recommends sites that are institution- or government-based, such as the Mayo Clinic, WebMD, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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