Reverse Engineering Cyberchondria   1 comment

This chart tries to depict the operation of a common type of cyberchondriacal behavior, doing web searches and visiting web sites, that is not based on a particular, favorite destination (such as webmd) but rather the haphazard, intuitive browsing of successive sets of search results, that often yields threads in discussion groups.  While the article “What is Cyberchondria?” by Emilie Sennebogen that Genevieve cites suggests that some cyberchondriacs increase their anxiety because they escalate pathological results that appear at the top of the listings, I find that other criteria may influence the progression of a self-analysis.  For example, if a number of results link to detailed narratives in discussion group threads that sound similar to your own, you are more likely to follow those threads.  Then your next, more refined query may use language you picked up in those readings, tuning your initial diagnosis by changing the search terms.  Moreover, if remedies are suggested that do not involve going to the doctor, such as trying an OTC medication, then you may experiment with it, and revisit your searching in a day or so based on the outcome.   Thus, in addition to the tendency to jump to conclusions that one is afflicted with a serious condition, some cyberchondriacs may incline towards the least serious diagnoses, especially if they have the tools/medications ready-at-hand to test the hypothesis.  This might be called a “hacker” or “bricoleur” aspect of cyberchondria.

Oh, I have a bump on my skin Is it a bug bite? Is it a callous? Is it a disease?
Read search results about fleas
bed bugs
(eliminated possibility) acne
chicken pox/shingles
Search again using refined pattern insect bite words
(eliminated possibility) acne terms
Try remedies suggested in credible narratives
hydro-cortisone cream
(retest in days)
(eliminated possibility) change diet
(retest in days)

Posted September 21, 2010 by jbork in Uncategorized

One response to “Reverse Engineering Cyberchondria

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  1. Interesting perspective. This prompted me to review the true defintion of hypochondria:

    “suffix from Greek hypochondrion (“below the cartilage”). The hypochondriac region was regarded as the seat of emotion.”

    It’s easier to say “cyberchondria”, though the better term would probably be “cyberhypochondria”. I formulated that perhaps a good definition: cyberchondria– the internet provoking the seat of emotion. or the seat of emotion easily provoked by cyberspace.


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