Searching   4 comments

So I took at look at to figure out what is wrong with me. Apparently according to my symptoms (which are genuine, though mild or not persistent) I have an autoimmune thyroid disease. WD describes this as “common diseases that occur when the thyroid gland is attacked by the immune system.”

Now I’m quite sure that you can’t really call an autoimmune disorder that attacks a gland common in anyway. In addition, I’m not sure just what the website expects to invoke with its name, but to mean it almost reads as a parody. Like this is the place to go to get the “wrong diagnosis” or something.

Oh, I also looked up the definition of cyberchondria on WD and it is as follows: “Cyberchondria: Internet-users who become hypochondriacs due to inaccurate health information.” I may be misunderstanding the meaning of cyberchondria, but I think inaccurate information is not the root problem.

Posted September 21, 2010 by kathryndunlap in Uncategorized

4 responses to “Searching

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  1. Would I be a jerk devil’s advocate if I ask: What if it turned out you do have a thyroid disorder? Like Hashimoto’s Disease for example. Would that change (if at all) your perception of self-diagnosis sites in any way?

    I personally don’t go for generalized self-diagnosis sites. That never got me anywhere. I tended to look up symptoms and related research documents (like studies done by NIH for example), and I also looked up sites like Mayo Clinic’s.

    And it is an odd way to think of an autoimmune thyroid disease as “common”. The term “common” really invalidates an illness’ seriousness and yet validates it as a very real condition at the same time. Could it be the disease you came upon is regarded as “common” because there are quite a few people who are clinically diagnosed with it?


  2. Kathryn:

    Your post brings to mind another issue related to cyberchondria: fear. Even if a person is not prone to “a preoccupation with health, a propensity to self diagnose…disease phobia” (Segal) he or she may become quite afraid of the info available on a site like

    How does fear affect one’s rhetorical stance?

    How does fear impact the doctor-patient relationship?


  3. Elle–
    I think perhaps this ties back into John B’s post regarding some cyberchondriacs not taking the worst-possible-case scenario diagnosis and instead focusing on the lesser diagnosis. I would imagine this is out of fear.

    In my own personal experience I’d have to admit that fear greatly impacts doctor-patient relationship. There will always be that question, “What is this doctor missing?” in the back of my mind, wondering if they are putting my life in danger. That is just a result of going for five years with a serious illness and being told it’s all in my head. It’s an unfortunate predicament really. I would imagine there are also many care-givers who have come to have the same nagging question as I posted above.

    Note, fear comes from lack of trust. I think doctors have to break down that barrier of lack of trust in order to communicate effectively with their patients. Of course this takes patience though.


  4. I think that there’s a conflict of two things going on here, the desire to get information out there to the public where it can do good, and the reality that there are people out there that will respond with fear and worst case scenario fantasies. So I can’t say that the information is bad, but as a diagnostic tool it can be misleading at best.

    To address Genevieve’s original question, I think information is good, but self-diagnosis sites are not so helpful and even if I were to find out I had a thyroid condition I would not likely change my mind. This site in particular was poorly designed because I had to gather symptom categories like “weight symptoms” or “hair symptoms.” So both weight loss and gain or hair loss and growth are considered to be the same during the initial classification. It just seems too non-specific to actually diagnose well.

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