Cyberchondria is real, and you’ve just diagnosed yourself.

By Nina Quatrino


For many, the internet can be a safe haven. For people like me however, it can be the farthest thing from it. A literal nightmare, if that.

Being a hypochondriac, self-diagnosed of course, I tend to Google anything and everything that seems “not right” and I often assume the first three web links that appear must be whatever I have. Seriously, I once Googled “chest pain, trouble breathing, and headache” and somehow came to the immediate conclusion that I was having a heart attack.

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Turns out it was just anxiety and not an actual heart attack…but don’t even get me started on the times I thought I was having a stroke, seizure, a pregnancy, a miscarriage, and then menopause.

I suppose we all have somewhat of a hypochondria-tic way of thinking. How could we not? With Google being the majority’s go-to search engine, we use it for everything. In fact over 80% of people use the internet to look up symptoms and health related issues before turning to books or calling a doctor. Thus the name, Dr. Google was initiated. In an article from The New York Times, titled  “Stop Asking Dr. Google for Advice”  author Arun Swaminath explains how Dr. Google (Search-obtained health diagnoses) is usually false and can not guarantee proper results like a human physician. He goes on to explain how people not only self-diagnose themselves, but they even go as far as to conduct D.I.Y treatments for them. *Guilty. Swaminath also brings up the idea that people are infatuated with comment boxes and forums. He mentions how he’s had clients actually refuse to use medications and prefer “home remedies” because of someone’s comment somewhere on the internet that scared them into believing them over a well-educated doctor. *Guilty again.

Regardless of how obvious seeking health-related answers online isn’t always wise, it still doesn’t stop us from being curious and clicking search anyways. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably already diagnosed yourself as a cyberchondriac.

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It’s funny to joke and laugh about it with friends, however the numerous late-night Google searches, frantic runs to CVS, and mini panic attacks are not so fun. While we can try to convince ourselves we aren’t dying all we want, the truth is we never really know unless we seek real help and treatments. Like many others in my demographic, (college students) we don’t necessarily want to call home or see a doctor every time we think something is wrong. Though seeing a doctor and talking with someone is the only real way to figure out what’s wrong, there is one thing you can do to prevent driving yourself insane with panic.

WebMD is Doctor’s most trusted health related question and answer website. Before you read a million yahoo answers and responses on health forums, check out WebMD first. The site is extremely user friendly, and you will most likely be able to diagnose yourself practically with the amount of information the site carries. Again, if you’re anything like me you’ll probably still read the forum about the girl who didn’t know she was pregnant and now has two healthy boys and you’ll some how find it identical to your stomach-ache. Don’t ask.

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UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism