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Cyberchondria – Are we Putting Too Much Faith in Dr. Google?
You may be reading this post because you are curious about that term – “cyberchondria.” It’s not hard to figure out what it means. It means hypochondriac-ism as a result of doing online searches. More precisely, the act of diagnosing ourselves by using the web, then upsetting ourselves through our findings. It’s when we decide a headache is really brain cancer, or low blood sugar is translated as Parkinsons, or forgetfulness becomes Alzheimers. The word “cyberchondria” has been around for 20 years or so, ever since search engines first arrived on the web scene. It is often couched in the same sneer as self-diagnosis, as if no non-medical professional should be taking their time trying to figure out what their symptoms mean on their own. We can’t possibly be smart enough to do that, right? Argh. Bull-pooky! As a result, I find the word insulting; as if we patients don’t have the ability to process information properly, or are blowing our symptoms out of proportion. It’s at least as insulting as my last post, about providers telling patients their symptoms are “all in your head.” If there is one thing I hate, it’s being underestimated. Calling a patient a “cyberchondriac,” or insisting that patients are wasting their time by self-diagnosing are both underestimations. Totally demeaning and disrespectful. And so I actually take a different approach to such insults. See what you think: We know our bodies better than anyone. We know when everything feels right, and we know when something feels “off.” Because we know our bodies, and because – unlike our providers – we can take time to explore more information as it’s presented to us, we may actually have the ability and opportunity to be even more accurate than our providers by using the web, provided (and this is important!) we know the best ways to use only accurate and credible information to do so. This includes the fact that providers aren’t being trained anymore to diagnose by using their own sense. They are being trained to rely on test results. Now, that may sound like a good thing – and often it is. But test results can be wrong (mine were wrong twice!) and not every diagnosis has a corresponding conclusive test anyway. So then what? In my book, You Bet Your Life! The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes (How to Fix Them to Get the Healthcare…