Cyberchondria: Just Another Way to Say it’s All In Your Head?   2 comments

I’ve been avoiding this assignment like the black plague.

Seriously, the assignment to look up cyberchondria-related sites made me cringe. (Sorry Dr Scott!)  I’m the classic example of someone who was probably deemed a cybercondriac (and certainly deemed a hypoconchondriac) by a lot of doctors.  If it wasn’t for my internet searching I wouldn’t have gotten diagnosed as the first documented case betaine/ trimethylglycine deficiency in the entire world, and the first documented human case (as opposed to laboratory mouse specimen) of a specific choline transporter genetic defect.   

So I went from site to site getting more offended with each minute.  I don’t deny that Cyberconchondria happens.  However, I feel like it’s just a new term to say “it’s all in your head” when you’re sitting there truly sick in the doctor’s office and they can’t seem to find anything wrong with you.

This site least offended me:

“What is Cyberchondria?”

by Emilie Sennebogen

What intrigued me was a section entitled “The Impact of the Internet on Doctor-Patient Relationships” in which it acknowledges maybe it isn’t so bad to research illness online, because it prompts patients to ask more informed questions of their doctors and open up a whole new dialogue.

I’m including a second site as well…..

I think this site only starts to touch on my leeriness of jumping on the cyberchondria-calling bandwagon:

“E-patients, Cyberchondriacs, and Why We Should Stop Calling Names”

by Susannah Fox on August 30, 2010

But what really got me about this last site was their attitude that:  Patients look up information online, so the medical community needs to just deal.  Researching online is an accepted practice; Get over it. 

They also talk about how the terms “e-patient” and “cyberchondriac” can alienate patients from the medical community.  They should be regarded as “patients” period without a stigma attached to being an informed patient.

Is the term “Cyberchondria” just another slur to put an informed patient in his/her place?  What happens when a truly physically sick person diagnoses his/herself with “Cyberchondria” as opposed to going to a doctor for answers? 

Anyway, it’s difficult for me to try to maintain some objectivity in this particular topic, so I fully realize that and I sincerely apologize for my strong bias.  😉

I tend to agree generalized websites like the ones listed below (ie., are not necessarily very accurate or helpful.  I see their guidance as useful as apartment-search or roommate-search sites (and I’ve moved into new apartments 7 times in my adult life).  They also all tend to crash my computer.  With symptom-checking and diagnosis-researching I tend to go the route of accumulating tons of scientific research online (like NIH, Mayo, Vanderbilt, etc, via PUBMED search), but if there’s a perhaps “better” self-diagnosis-aid site I think it is Mayo Clinic’s:

Genevieve Tyrrell

Posted September 21, 2010 by gentyrrell in Uncategorized

2 responses to “Cyberchondria: Just Another Way to Say it’s All In Your Head?

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  1. Hi Gen:

    I am not sure that the issue that the medical community has with how patients use the web to research illness is about not wanting to deal or not respecting internet research as accepted practice. Rather, it goes back to earlier discussions about patients becoming so ‘educated’ that they no longer trust the doctor’s clinical judgement, as Montgomery called it.


  2. I respectfully disagree. I think patients walking in with internet information can sometimes be viewed as threatening or stepping on the toes of doctors, or questioning doctors’ judgments, which some can take quite personally. Although, I think this phenomenon is more associated with the ‘educated’ patient in the broader general sense (though it would be fair to say a lot of that education may indeed be through internet searches.)

    And I would argue what’s so wrong with not trusting a doctor’s clinical judgment? My personal opinion (based on personal experience; again apologies for the strong bias) is that every patient should walk into a doctor’s office with a healthy dose of skepticism. Doctors are human. They make mistakes like the rest of us.

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