February 15, 2017

The Rise of the Cyberchondriac

Search engines are very useful tools. Whereas in previous generations we would had to have asked around for information, or gone to a library or another place of research to find out the source of question (how did they ever get by watching a movie and not instantly finding out what film they’re seen a certain character in before?), it is now available at our fingertips. This is the biggest wealth of information that we are likely to ever have in front of us, and it can be said with certainty that the internet has helped transform how we live today.

But there’s just one thing. Some things shouldn’t be transformed. When we are given a laptop with a working internet connection, we are given the power to be whoever we want to be. Some pretend to be a different person in a chatroom, others like to pretend that they’re interior designers as they pin their life away on Pinterest. Then there are those that think they are doctors, despite having never embarked on a medical degree or even taken their career down that path. And why? Because they’ve googled their symptoms.

doctor-with-stetoscope-and-pens-in-the-pocketPicture Credit

How bad can it be?

One in four of us would rather let a website tell us what is wrong with us than take the trip to visit a doctor. Rather than have a professional tell us what is actually wrong, we are becoming a generation of cyberchondriacs. We delve deeper and deeper to find the prognosis that we think fits, even if it is so far from the truth of what our problem actually is.


But it’s giving me a good idea of what’s wrong with me…

Some things – minor things – can probably be diagnosed online. Like finding out what to do after you have grazed your knee, or what to take for a cold. Otherwise you could be running in another direction completely.

For example – if you have a headache and a runny nose, you could have a cold. Other things that you could have: migraine, an addiction to drugs, a new addition to the family in 9 months or asbestos poisoning (you can get more clarified symptoms of niche illnesses related to asbestos at dedicated websites such as http://www.mesotheliomahelp.org).

Image Source

So how do we combat this?

Get off your laptop and go and see a real person who is trained to tell people why they are feeling ill. Step away from your smart phone, turn off your computer, hide your tablet – whatever you can do to stop running to a search engine at the first sneeze. Not only will it make diagnosis more effective if you get there before whatever symptoms you have start developing, but it could potentially save your life. If you nip the problem in the bud with the help of a professional, you will be spending less time in the doctor’s waiting room than you had originally anticipated. If you get the diagnosis wrong, it may not be the waiting room you find yourself in, but rather the emergency room at the local hospital.

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