Are You Unknowingly Becoming A Cyberchondriac?

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You’ve most likely experienced it before– a mysterious burn in your chest, strange skin spots, unexplainably persistent aches- ailments that have you hopping onto the interwebs to find the most recent remedy for your unknown and concerning symptoms. But before you Google your next illness or look for another potential diagnosis on Yahoo! Answers, you should first make sure you’re receiving only the best information from all the options at your fingertips.

The Study

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conveyed new figures showing that 46 percent of all U.S. adults have seeked out health information online. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, says Lori Heim, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, but it can become so if you begin researching a symptom to where it becomes an obsession. “There’s a lot of good information on the Internet, and there’s a lot of misinformation,” she says. When symptoms aren’t clear, though, there’s plenty of conflicting information that can distract you during your search, she continues– which only gives you an unnecessary headache. “You start to check one site then another, and it’s sort of like you’re going down this rabbit hole and you can’t get out of it.”

Also, you could become a “cyberchondriac,” a term given by researchers after a 2008 project found out how people use the Internet to find out about medical conditions. They realized that simple Web searches for symptoms from “headache” to “chest pain” frequently led to pages or articles offering those as symptoms for serious conditions such as heart attacks or tumors- rather than less serious (but more likely) conditions like caffeine withdrawal or simple indigestion. For example, the researchers searched “muscle twitches” and found that 50 percent of the sites listed muscle twitches as a symptom of Lou Gherig’s disease (which only affects about one in 55,000 Americans)– while only 38 percent of the sites had “muscle twitches” as an indicator of muscle strain, which occurs significantly more frequently worldwide.

Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.

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