Cyberchondria, an unhealthy obsession with internet health

Long waiting lists and short consultation times for patients. The current situation of the public health system and easy access to the Internet have led to the choice of resorting to a doctor who, without prior appointment, is available 24 hours a day: Doctor Google. But trying to turn the search engine into a GP comes with great dangers. Infoxication, hoaxes, insatiable searches … Meet the obsessive spiral of cyberchondria

The inclusion of new information and communication technologies (ICT) in the health field is representing a real revolution in Health. Internet is a very easily accessible source of information that over the years has been acquiring a greater role in the massive dissemination of health content. In this context, cyberchondria poses a risk to well-being.

Six out of 10 Internet users use the Internet to find out about health and 85% go to this computer network as the first and only option.

Search engines and social networks have become a kind of unofficial medical consultation. According to the National Observatory of Telecommunications and the Information Society (ONSTSI), women are the ones who most resort to the Internet to research health issues, generally seeking advice on nutrition, food and healthy lifestyles (54.2 %); diagnosed diseases (52.1%); symptoms (50.09%)

Hypochondria 2.0.

Hypochondria is an extreme concern for health, pathological in nature. Its essential characteristic is the fear of suffering, or the conviction of having, a serious illness, self-diagnosed from the wrong interpretation of some symptoms.

The cyberchondriac is thus a hypochondriac adapted to the digital environment.

His obsession with his state of health remains the same, the only thing that differs is the way he expresses it.

“Instead of using physical visits, the person who suffers from cyberchondria makes excessive use of digital consultations. It channels its concern through consulting the Internet continuously and that is the big problem, because it is much more accessible ”, explains Guillem Serra, a doctor and mathematician, who knows first-hand the eHealth market and new companies in the field of health care. medicine.

The danger of turning to the Internet for quick answers

The amount of information circulating on the network is such that the ability to manage and filter the huge amount of data requires great skill.

“The problem with googling is that the severity of a symptom is easily exaggerated. A simple cold can end up being a pathology of cancer ”, points out Guillem Serra who, aware of the risk of health infoxication, offers us some guidelines on how to search for health information in a safe and beneficial way.

How to find and filter quality health information?
To achieve this, Guillem Serra insists on the need to have “a critical eye that knows how to discern truthful information.”

He highlights these two issues to keep in mind:

There is false information, which has been proven to be false and that the critical eye of the Internet user should know how to detect.
There is truthful information, which although it is true, does not necessarily correspond to the symptoms of the Internet user. This distinction requires a more subtle critical eye since, despite the scientific rigor of the source consulted, the lack of a critical spirit makes the patient quickly assume a pathology as his own if he believes he has several of the symptoms.
In addition, he recommends seeking information through official channels and, above all, “as soon as you see that you are looking too much, before continuing with this behavior, go to the doctor to seek a second opinion.

Importance of the doctor-patient relationship

A good relationship between the doctor and his patients is always important. However, after going through a consultation, some patients leave with the feeling that the doctor has not been able to listen or address their concerns.

“It is not that we doctors have become worse people or worse professionals. But the demand of the volume of visits and the amount of bureaucratic work, means that a doctor has very little dedication to you. We are talking about public medical visits of less than five minutes ”, points out Guillem Serra who, in addition to being a doctor, is the Founder and CEO of MediQuo, a medical consultation application that allows its users to chat with health professionals 24 hours a day of the day, every day of the year.

When faced with cases of hypochondria, a good doctor-patient relationship becomes even more crucial. The hypochondriac patient tends to distrust the doctor’s assessment if the answer does not coincide with what they think. That is why the medical pilgrimage is usually a frequent parameter in these cases. Patients, dissatisfied with the response of their doctors, go to different doctors for consulta