Monday, September 17, 2012

Cyberchondriacs

We have all heard about hypochondriacs. Now we are living in the era of cyberchondriacs, people who a compulsively search the Internet for information about real or imagined symptoms of illness.  The phenomenon is noteworthy.

Here is recent commentary in the Richmond Times Dispatch on cyberchondria. The quality of health information online is variable, many of it written by laypersons or advocacy groups and not subject to a rigorous peer review process. This can be dangerous, as unreliable information can result in increased anxiety and  unnecessary evaluations and treatments, as published here in the International Journal of Adolescent Medical Health.

Patients may not fully share the blame for their cyberchondriac ways. Much of the search for answers  may stem from our short office visit times, where answers to symptoms and concerns are not addressed.

Below are clinical pearls for managing cyberchondriacs, as published in the Primary Care Companion-Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Source:  Primary Care Companion-Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 

To borrow a phrase from one author, anxiety is more contagious than the flu.

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