Picture this you just got finish eating a huge meal and an hour later you’re having some weird cramping pains in your chest. You head over to your computer and type the symptom “chest pain” into your preferred search engine. The first result to pop up is heart attack. Your curiosity escalates into anxiety as you scroll through pages that list heart attack symptoms as the exact ones you’re having.
More than likely, what you’re experiencing isn’t a heart attack at all but maybe something as simple as heartburn. Something that could have been treated by taking an antacid has resulted in an ER visit that has now cost you thousands of dollars. This is an example of cyberchondria. Cyberchondria refers to people that use the Internet to look up medical information and use the information to diagnosis themselves. BODY I Cyberchondria causes a lot of people to self-misdiagnosis themselves.
According to MSNBC. com, “Although medical websites such as Web MD and Mayo Clinic provide key insights into identifying and treating various illnesses, experts warn they also make it easy for people to misdiagnosis health problems and can lead to “cyberchondria,” or anxiety borne from online health-related searches”. After reading symptoms online a person may start to think they have those symptoms, creating a delusion in their minds.
For example, a person goes to a search engine and type in “fever with cough”…instead of them assuming it’s just a simple cold, they start reading the symptoms of the flu… and thinking to themselves “I did have the shakes and was feeling cold earlier”, forgetting he/she had the air conditioning turned downed when getting out of the shower or “saying I have been feeling fatigue for the past couple of weeks”, when the real cause of their fatigue has been from doing the extreme intense workout Insanity for the past couple of weeks.
With all these worries and concerns leads a person to assume the worse. According to American Medical News, “many physicians are reporting increased patient anxiety due to the self-diagnosis of serious diseases via information found on the web. The abundance of health information on the Internet—some of which is unreliable—is contributing to “cyberchondria”. ” Also, since many times a person is avoiding a doctor’s offices they may also seek over the counter remedies. BODY II Cyberchondria may cause a person to misuse over the counter drugs.
After a person goes online and self-diagnosis themselves, they usual go to the store to pick up some over the counter medication to treat themselves. People can use different medication that may have the same ingredients that may cause an over dose. For example, a person that is going to a store seeking medications to treat the flu buys NyQuil cold and flu to treat the major symptoms of the flu like cough and sore throat and also buys Tylenol for the fever and pain…not knowing that NyQuil cold and flu already includes Tylenol, therefore they over dose on the Tylenol.
When taking over the counter medications in excess amounts serious harm may occur. In the article, “Self-poisoning and overdosing” from thesite. org, “Self-medication, poisoning or overdose can lead to lasting and potentially fatal damage of internal organs such as liver, kidney and heart failure. Fatal organ failure may not happen immediately, but could occur several days after an overdose”. Also, a person may get recommendations for over the counter drugs from a pharmacist but not realizing the pharmacist may not take into consideration their other health conditions.
For example, a pharmacist recommending a decongestion medication not being aware that the person is also taking medication for high blood pressure…and the person takes the decongestion medication and it causes their blood pressure to go up. With self- diagnosis and treatment being done outside of the physician’s office, physician intervention is often bypassed. BODY III Cyberchondria may cause a change in the patient-doctor relationship. A person may not be able to develop a trusting relationship with their physician.
According to a study from the Journal of General Internal Medicine, “Patients thought to be difficult included those with more than five symptoms, severe symptoms or an underlying mental disorder or were less functional. These patients were less likely to fully trust or be satisfied with their physician, and they were more likely to report a worsening of symptoms two weeks after their visit”. Physicians may develop a frustration with patients, who seek treatment via the Internet because the patient may have worsen the problem by self-diagnosing themselves and the physician has to deal with the after effects.
Also, the physician may feel unappreciated, due to the fact they are no longer considered the main source of medical information. CONCLUSION In conclusion, Cyberchondria could lead to misdiagnosis, misuse of over the counter drugs, the change in patient-doctor relationship and delay of appropriate treatment. People should be careful when seeking medical information online and should not use medical information online to replace an actual physician.