Tag Archives: hypochondria

Good News Monday: Calling All Hypochondriacs

Does the slightest cough, muscle ache, or sore throat beget frenzied thoughts of fatal disease? Do you panic that you can’t get an immediate doctor’s appointment?

According to the following study, reliable help is as close as your computer.

Photo by Ann Nekr on Pexels.com

[from StudyFinds.org]

Going to ‘Dr. Google’ to look up your symptoms actually leads to accurate diagnoses!

BOSTON, Mass. — The moment something doesn’t look or feel right, many people won’t run to their doctor, they’ll turn to Google. Although an internet search may not sound like good medical advice, a new study finds it can actually help. Researchers say patients who use “Dr. Google” to find out what’s wrong with them will likely get the right diagnosis.

According to the report, googling symptoms improves peoples’ ability to diagnose their illness without adding additional stress. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School admit that “cyberchondria” has made the value of internet medical searches controversial.

This increased anxiety brought on by continuously looking up every ailment online has even pushed some medical professionals to urge patients not to look their symptoms up online before seeing them. Researchers add anxiety can lead people to think they’re on death’s door when in fact they are perfectly healthy.

Despite Dr. Google’s poor reputation, study authors conclude using the internet to check your symptoms may not be such a bad idea after all.

“I have patients all the time, where the only reason they come into my office is because they Googled something and the Internet said they have cancer,” study author Dr. David Levine says in a media release. “I wondered, ‘Is this all patients? How much cyberchondria is the Internet creating?”

Can everyday people give out sound medical advice?

Researchers asked 5,000 participants to read a short “case vignette,” describing a number of symptoms and imagine someone close to them was experiencing them. The participants then had to make two diagnoses, before and after looking up the symptoms online.

Cases ranged from mild to severe, but described common illnesses, such as viruses, heart attacks, and strokes. Study authors also asked the group to choose between letting the health condition get better on its own or calling 911. After making their choice, participants reported how anxious they felt.

Results reveal participants were “slightly better” at correctly diagnosing their cases after carrying out an internet search. The process also did not add to their levels of anxiety.

“Our work suggests that it is likely OK to tell our patients to ‘Google it,’” Dr. Levine says. “This starts to form the evidence base that there’s not a lot of harm in that, and, in fact, there may be some good.”

Are robot doctors next?

The team admits it’s not clear whether people would behave the same way if one of their loved ones was truly ill. Moreover, the results won’t represent the reactions of all people who use the internet for health-related searches. Next, study authors are planning on testing whether artificial intelligence could use the Internet to correctly diagnose patients.

“This next study takes a generalized AI algorithm, trained on all of the open-source text of the Internet such as Reddit and Twitter, and then uses that to respond when prompted,” Dr. Levine concludes. “Can AI supplement how people use the Internet? Can it supplement how doctors use the Internet? That’s what we’re interested in investigating.”

The findings appear in the journal JAMA Network Open.

SWNS writer Tom Campbell contributed to this report.

Hype and Hypochondria

Are you starting to wonder if every ache and pain is an indication of something more serious? I blame the evening news.

As if climate change, screeching political candidates, the ricocheting stock market, and dwindling honeybees aren’t troubling enough, within the space of an hour’s broadcast you’ll see at least a dozen dramatic commercials for symptoms you might have, symptoms you probably have, or diseases with cute initials you’d never heard of but are now sure you definitely have.

It’s enough to give anyone chronic constipation or diarrhea or at least a migraine.

I’m not really a hypochondriac; I’m more the Queen of De’Nile type, blindly optimistic that my test results will turn out fine. My husband, on the other hand, is easily persuaded that anything “off” is symptomatic of something dire and dangerous.

Bear in mind, he’s an empathetic guy. But these days he identifies a little too closely with the suffering actors on TV. When he wakes up with elbow pain does he think, “That’s because I slept with my arm sticking over the headboard” or “Too much time at the driving range”? Nope, he’s positive it’s elbow cancer. Could his back pain have any connection to lack of exercise or an overly-soft mattress? Nah. Can’t find his keys? Don’t blame his messy desk. Must be early onset Alzheimer’s.

I don’t mean to be flip; all too often, warning signs are ignored and illnesses that could have been caught early are allowed to progress. But maybe we’ve all become a little too educated and need to find a happy and healthy balance between sticking our heads in the sand (as in, ignoring a mole that’s changing) and paranoia that every minor ailment is life-threatening.

Here are the commercials that got him hyperventilating last night:

  • Macular degeneration
  • Toenail fungus
  • Laxatives
  • ED
  • RA
  • Circadian Rhythm Disorder (no, I did not make that up!)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • COPD
  • IBS
  • Joint pain
  • Psoriasis
  • Dry eyes
  • Memory loss
  • High BP
  • Depends

I swear, a Midol ad could probably convince him that his post-burrito bellyache was menstrual cramps.

Hypochondria must be a modern development. After all, ancient civilizations had bigger fish to fry– like worrying about pestilence, famine and rampant body odor.

Consider the original Paleo Diet. Who had time to fret about high cholesterol when your dinner might eat YOU first? Did cave mamas make sure everyone ate five servings a day of ferns and cattails to stay regular? I think not.

Fun fact: When ancient Vikings failed to attract the ladies they didn’t yammer on about erectile dysfunction; they bleached their hair and beards blonde with strong, lye-based soap so they’d look hot. As a bonus, this also helped kill off head lice. Win-win!

And I’ll bet that if you lived through the Inquisition, a little memory loss helped you sleep better at night.

My conclusion: Stay informed, watch the news if it doesn’t give you indigestion, and remember to toss your sweaty socks in the laundry bin so your toes don’t rot. But just in case you’re currently in good health (knock wood) keep your fingers crossed, say a kinehora to ward off the evil eye and turn to the right when you sneeze. You can never be too careful.