Saturday, March 31, 2012

Are You A Cyberchondriac?

We have all met hypochondriacs and we have all probably been guilty of being one at some point in our lives. We can easily recognize the signs of someone who constantly claims that there is something wrong with them. Week after week they claim to suffer from one ailment or another. Usually, we ignore them and brush off their symptoms because let's face it, nine times out of ten there is nothing really wrong. 

Now, however, these hypochondriacs come armed with the power of the internet. Not only do they believe that there is something wrong with them, but they now are also trying to diagnose themselves with websites such as WebMD. This phenomenon has become such a widespread issue that the term cyberchondria has been coined. By definition, a cyberchondriac is someone who consistently tries to diagnose their own conditions through the use of the internet. Getting a sense of what may be ailing you is not necessarily a bad thing. It is a bad thing, however, when you replace an experienced and educated physician with a website. 

In theory, WebMD is a decent resource if you want to look up a condition or to look up some medication that you may be taking. The thing that makes WebMD troublesome is their symptom checker. This tool makes it all too easy for people to type in their symptoms and receive a diagnosis. For example, if I enter in chest pain with a dull achy pain localized to one side WebMD will tell me to seek emergency help before giving me my probable diagnosis. This is great and this is exactly what the website should do, but then it gives me a list of conditions. The first diagnosis is muscle strain and the second is asthma. Neither of these conditions strike me as terribly ominous, especially if I do not have asthma, so why would I seek emergency care? In reality, I could be having a heart attack. WebMD told me to call 911, but then they said it was a muscle pull. Most people, do not want to have a life threatening condition and a lot of people will accept the diagnosis of a muscle pull over the chance that they could be having a heart attack. This, my friends, is where WebMD, in my opinion, is flawed.

I have used WebMD in the past and it has worked okay, but recently, I have found a new website. This healthcare information website is W3Clinic . This website makes no attempt to diagnose your symptoms and honestly, I think it is better that way. It does however provide in depth information for a wide range of conditions, medications, different medical tests, first aid, nutrition, and even a dictionary to look up technical medical jargon. The best part about W3Clinic is that the content is written and moderated by board-certified physicians.

As always, never attempt to diagnose yourself and never take medication without consulting your doctor. Healthcare information websites are meant for informational purposes only and should never be used in place of emergency or standard care. 


The trouble with being a hypochondriac these days is that antibiotics have cured all the good diseases.
-Caskie Stinnett

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