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Cyberchondria: a Growing Anxiety Disorder Caused by Overusing the Internet for Health Solutions


A TBYIL Exclusive by Luella Isaacs

(The Best Years in Life) At first glance, anyone unfamiliar with the term "cyberchondria" might think that is an internet joke or yet another made-up health condition from mainstream medicine. However, cyberchondria is no joking matter and it is becoming a growing concern due to the increasing number of people using the internet to search for solutions to their perceived illnesses.

Cyberchondria is described as "unfounded escalation of concerns about common symptomology based on review of search." In other words, excessive anxiety resulting from online health searches. While the internet can be a powerful tool to research health conditions, a cyberchondriac may believe that they suffer from ALL the conditions they come across.

Although cyberchondria and hypochondria may seem to essentially be the same condition, hypochondria is an excessive concern with one's health in general whereas cyberchondria involves excessive online concern with one's health. Instead of doing realistic research, a cyberchondriac will tend to believe they suffer from the worst case they find. The more they search, the more serious their perceived health condition becomes.

Cyberchondriacs will often dismiss information that doesn’t support their worst-case scenarios. In reality, however, even as they search for the causes of their symptoms, they are really trying to relieve their fear that they have a serious or life-threatening condition.

Signs that you may have cyberchondria include

*Focusing on the worst case scenario.

*Surfing the internet for the vaguest of symptoms.

*The "Favorites" you visit or bookmark consist of health related searches.

*The slightest symptom experienced results in an immediate online search.

*You have printed volumes on health conditions to show your doctor.

*Even though your searches confirm that your symptoms are something minor, you keep looking for a more serious condition.

*Experiencing anxiety when researching symptoms.

*Feeling worse after reading health information.

*Symptom surfing takes over your life.


Healing from cyberchondria

Cyberchondria is an anxiety-related disorder. Persons who suffer from some type of anxiety are more likely to suffer from cyberchondria. If left untreated, cyberchondria can cripple a person's life to the point of damaging relationships as well as actual health.

When researching symptoms on the internet, it is important to know the difference between realistically taking charge of your health and magnifying every possible symptom. However, this may be impossible for a cyberchondriac. Therefore, therapy may be necessary to put things into perspective.

Unfortunately, mainstream medicine will likely treat cyberchondria as it treats other conditions: unnatural and often dangerous drugs. A better solution would be to seek a holistic health practitioner who can help treat any actual conditions they find as well as relieve fears about worst-case scenarios the cyberchondriac may harbor.

Cyberchondria doesn't have to take over your life. The goal should be to focus on overcoming the problem at hand and stop magnifying what are most likely unfounded fears.

Following are some simple steps one may take to aid in their healing:

*Talk to a qualified holistic professional.

*Do not spend excessive time on health related sites and forums – especially the ones filled with conflicting advice and fellow cyberchondriacs. If need be, unplug the computer or at least take breaks away from it (something most of us could probably benefit from).

*Find activities to get involved in that do not involve the cyber world: such as outdoor activities, reading, finding a hobby, etc.

*Relaxation exercises, meditation, visualization, music therapy, etc. will help to promote peace of mind.

Family support can be very important for a person suffering from cyberchondria. Instead of laughing the problem off, the family should understand the condition so that they can guide and encourage their loved one to overcome it.



About the author:

Luella Isaacs is a natural health advocate and author helping people to heal naturally.  Her articles appear in several online venues, including Natural News, AlignLife and CureZone.  Luella is in the midst of editing her eBook, "The 8 Invisible Stains of Our Souls" which will be available in the next few months. She partners with Tony Isaacs, who authors books and articles about natural health including "Cancer's Natural Enemy". Luella a partner and contributor of The Best Years in Life website for baby boomers and others wishing to avoid prescription drugs and mainstream managed illness and live longer, healthier and happier lives naturally. Luella co-moderates the CureZone "Ask Tony Isaacs featuring Luella Isaacs" forum as well as the Yahoo Health Group "Oleander Soup" and hosts her own yahoo group focusing on the natural wellbeing of pets. 



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