Many people are familiar with Hypochondriacs, but few are aware of the Cyberchondriacs. Both problems can greatly disrupt your life. To understand Cyberchondria, you must first know about hypochondria.
For those few of you aren’t familiar with the hypochondriac, I can quickly explain. Before the internet came along, we relied on books, information from other people, and our obvious symptoms. That is until we actually visited the doctor to find out for sure.
The hypochondriac would feel a sudden pain in their chest and probably think they were either having a heart attack or stroke. They might even look through a few old medical encyclopedias to get their answers because heaven forbid, they could get the truth from the doctor.
On the other hand, some hypochondriacs would go to the doctor over and over because every little pain or discomfort would send them searching for that elusive disease they must have. I had an aunt, that stayed at the hospital about as much as she stayed at home. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I remember visiting the hospital many times to see her, and the family talking about her “imagined” illnesses.
Then enters the victim of Cyberchondria
Those who suffer from Cyberchondria no longer rely on medical encyclopedias or word of mouth. They simply log onto their computers or laptops and start “googling” their symptoms. They visit medical resource pages and other places catering to their symptoms.
As they read about various symptoms, they attribute their aches and pains to horrible diseases like heart failure or cancer. Instead of maybe thinking the pain could be from indigestion, they assume the worst. Basically the world is working in the same way, but just using a different medium to do so.
Anxious people shouldn’t fall for the trick of Cyberchondria
Did you know that seemingly normal, average people can sometimes fall for the trick of cyberchondria? Yes, they can. But what happens when those with anxiety disorders fall for this problem? Oh, it can be so much worse. Paired with anxiety, the extra fear of death or disease can be devastating. As a person with anxiety, I had to learn ways to not fall for this trap. It’s not easy either.
How to stop falling for cyberchondria
1. If you must look, use trusted sites
Sometimes the desire to read about your symptoms is just too overwhelming to deny. So, If you must look and read about them, use trusted and reputable sites. But, don’t overuse these sites and consider them the equivalent of a doctor’s report. Only a doctor can tell you what’s going on, and this is because they can see you in person and do the full range of check-ups and blood work.
So, when reading, don’t read just anything you find. If you do, you might be planning your funeral before the day’s over with. I’ve done this, fallen for this trap, and then had to pull myself back out. Remember, if you have to read about your symptoms, use trusted sites only, and don’t read it over and over either.
2. The internet is bad and good
When searching for symptoms, we tend to become afraid of what the actual doctors will say. So we leave them out of the picture. This can be dangerous, especially, if there really is something wrong with you. Say you see things that make you think you’re going to die soon, and so you say, “What’s the point in seeing a doctor?”.
This can be the most unintelligent move you’ve ever made. Something could really be wrong with you, but that something could be treatable. If you wait, however, it might not be treatable at all. Could you possibly kill yourself being a cyberchondriac? Well, that’s one way to look at it. So, think about that for a while.
3. Recognize rumination worry
If you can possibly recognize the negative path you’re on when you start searching the internet for symptoms, you could maybe stop it. And yes, this is easier said than done. With all the information at our fingertips today, it’s impossible to get away from all of it. So, when you start to think the worst, tell yourself that it could just as well be something small too.
Having anxiety makes it more difficult to see the brighter side, and that’s why you have to practice catching what you’re doing early on. If not, your anxiety could lead you to have a panic attack by simply looking up symptoms.
I really do miss the days before such easy access to so much information existed. The internet is a place to find billions of pages of information, but you can also find so much garbage. The whole dynamic is meant to make you think too much.
4. Stay offline
Maybe the internet is just not for you. The more you stay offline, the less you’ll indulge in your symptom search. Cyberchondria can get so bad sometimes that a person will actually enjoy the adrenaline rush of seeing whether or not they are going to die of some strange lump or sore.
I know this might sound weird, but it’s no different than indulging in depression, which many of us have done before. Or it could be the fact that anxiety always sees the worst before the best, so staying offline will help you avoid all the so-called facts which could damage you more than help.
5. Talk to a professional
You can talk to both a physician and a therapist instead of looking for answers online. The only sure way of knowing what’s wrong with you is to trust in professionals. Although many people online may claim to be professionals, many of them are not. These self-proclaimed physicians could be the source of your problem and even make your anxiety worse.
As with many other problems, a good bit of meditation never hurts. When you start to worry about lumps, bumps, and sores, first get into the present time within your mind. Find a quiet place, away from technology, and listen to what nature is telling you. If you’re spiritual, tap into that as well. Just get that mind as clear as possible and as far away from cyberchondria as possible.
Do you have Cyberchondria?
Do you know something? I think we all have a small degree of cyberchondria. I know I’ve studied pages about my symptoms on many occasions. There are others who aren’t as bad as me, and then some that are worse. Either way, the whole idea has given me a different perspective on how I view my health and the internet.
While the internet isn’t bad in itself, it can be used for negative things and can certainly bring out the negative side in all of us, even turning us into cyberchondriacs.
Just be careful and consult your doctor instead.
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