Does the internet help us become hypochondriacs?

Written by on September 21, 2010 in depression & anxiety with 2 Comments

A really interesting and honest article where the writer tells us how she has always been very anxious about her health, worrying about many incidences that turned out to be fine. One great fear was leaving her children without a mother. Self diagnosing from the internet certainly didn’t help her anxiety, it would seem.

Having the resource of the internet  for health issues is a good thing. The internet becomes a bitter pill when all manner of rare and severe cases become confusing to those seeking information. The worst outcomes for rosacea sufferers is quite rare, the vast majority of rosacea sufferers achieve good relief. It is worth remembering this when you surf the internet for information.

Some good advice here also; find a GP that you trust and work with them.

Confessions of a hypochondriac

Health anxiety, By Louise Carpenter, The Observer, Sunday 17 January 2010

‘What right have I to complain in the face of real suffering? If you find yourself thinking this as I tell my story, then I can only say I have thought it a million times myself’

For the past five years, at the very least, there has been something in my life I have tried to deny. I have hidden it from others, or at least I thought I had – they would tell a different story – and I have tried to deny it to myself. But if I’m honest, it has always been there in one way or another, born in my adolescence and nurtured to strength by middle age and by motherhood. I can say two things with equal certainty: the first is that I cannot remember with any real clarity what it feels like not to worry, sometimes obsessively, about my health; the second is that acknowledging this causes me great shame. If the conscious, unspoken refrain in my head has been, at fairly frequent intervals, the absolute certainty of the end of my functioning life as I know it, its counterpoint has been to reproach and chastise myself for such self-indulgent introspection.

John Naish, in his book The Hypochondriac’s Handbook: A Disease for Every Occasion, An Illness for Every Symptom, points out how modern sanitation and medicine have eliminated the old dangers, but modern civilisation has given us more time, money and energy to fixate on illness. There has been a huge drop in mortal illness in the western world, but a massive increase in new diagnoses. As these new "illnesses" emerge, they are over-reported and given disproportionate significance.

There have been two other major shifts in society. The first is the rise of the internet, which has spawned "cyberchondria". Health is now the second-most popular internet search topic after pornography. Millions of people tap symptoms and diseases into Google and wait for some dreadful outcome. I am an aficionado of these sites (my favourite is the NHS site, [Ed note: I assume she meant, but this site is not a NHS site]). We terrify ourselves as we read information we do not understand and use to justify our worst fears.

The second change is the role of the GP. As one told me recently: "People don’t trust their GPs any more. We haven’t the time to give patients what they need, and it’s resulted in a breakdown of trust. They go on the internet themselves."

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About the Author

About the Author: David Pascoe started the Rosacea Support Group in October 1998. .

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2 Reader Comments

  1. bigtom says:

    for 2 years i was going to my gp for my rosacea,every 3 months i would be given a different cream that did nothing at all for my rosacea,(sometimes it made it worse!), each time i’d go i’d ask to be sent to a specialist,only to be told “we’ll see how this prescription works first”!one of the doctors even recommended i dont shave every day! (i have never shaved my nose!)obviously these people had no clue what my condition was,when i eventually got to see a specialist he didnt know what the problem was either!?he prescribed a cream that did nothing,in the 3 months i had to wait for my next appointment,i was searching the net when by complete accident i found a picture of somebody with the exact same condition as mine!!i clicked on the link and found the word rosacea!! thanks to the internet i had found out what was wrong!! i told the specialist,he didnt agree!? he searched for a picture of a man with rosacea at it’s worst!!i insisted he treat me for rosacea,he reluctantly prescribed rosacid, for the first time in almost three years i had an improvement!! then thanks to the internet again i discovered finacea, this is even better! i still have rosacea,but thanks to the internet it’s massively improved!

  2. andy says:

    I think the internet is a helpfull way of spreading ideas and treatments that often get side tracked in most literature.

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