There’s an app for that!
This phrase has been popular since the launch of the smartphone, and even though its use in advertising has gone downhill over the past few years, the general meaning still rings true, especially with medical apps.
Cyberchondria, or online hypochondria, is on the rise, especially in younger people. This term describes not only people who use apps to search their symptoms in order to diagnose themselves, but it also refers to simple Internet searches.
According to iVillage, there are 10 signs that someone may be a cyberchondriac, including searching for vague symptoms and feeling worse once the search is complete and there is a “diagnosis.” The idea is that surfing for vague symptoms is dangerous because it can lead people to believe they have something significantly more severe than what they may actually have.
But this danger is not limited to fearing the worst. Other problems can arise with cyberchondria, including the increased fear of the unknown and a dislike of it, according to the Huffington Post. This dislike of uncertainty causes some people to feel more anxious and as a result, they look up their symptoms online. Essentially, it is a cycle that needs to stop.
While understandably popular — considering the amount of apps and websites present with symptom checkers and disease explanations — cyberchondria is something that people should try to keep in check. The temptation is always there to do a Google search of whatever symptoms a person might be experiencing; however, this could have potentially harmful effects when this person does actually go to the doctor.
People who have a certain disease or issue in mind when going to the doctor can cause the doctor more problems. Think about it — if someone has a disease in mind, he or she will certainly tell the doctor that is probably what is causing his or her symptoms. The doctor should not necessarily take this into account when figuring out the cause, but it could potentially lead to misdiagnoses or the doctor having to do extra work to convince the patient that he or she actually has something else.
The increase in cyberchondria is representative of the dependence society has on the web and its information. The ability to check symptoms and other websites at the drop of a hat (for most people anyway) could actually be leading to other problems that the cyberchondriac might not be able to self-diagnose, like web addiction.
According to the BBC website, “Internet addiction is a clinical disorder marked by out-of-control Internet use.” The article went on to mention that the addiction does more than that. It actually is causing people’s brains to have more difficulty in making decisions, having self-control and controlling emotions.
Many people do not know where to begin with these problems. They may try to stop using diagnostic apps and websites, but they struggle to maintain the strength to stop, just as with any addiction. This Editorial Board believes that if someone is suffering from web addiction or cyberchondria, he or she should try to unplug as much as possible. Website-blocking apps are actually available in app stores for phones as well as laptops. One such app, called SelfControl, allows users to block certain websites for up to 24 hours.
No matter the issue, though, it is important to see a doctor if something is wrong.