How the Internet Causes Health Anxiety

man stressed out

Are you aware of how the Internet causes health anxiety? Now most people would agree that the creation of the Internet has made life simpler. You don't have to go to the library to do research, it can be done from home. You also don't have to drive from store to store to price compare anything from tires to tap shoes to cell phones. The Internet has been a blessing in many respects, except when it comes to our health.

What Is Health Anxiety?

When we say health anxiety, we are talking about an actual medical diagnosis. It is an anxiety disorder that happens to fall under the obsessive-compulsive disorder spectrum. Those that have health anxiety are constantly worrying about being sick and becoming sick. This is more than hypochondria. This is a belief that a symptom a person may be experiencing relates to a major physical illness:

  • AIDS
  • HIV
  • Cancer
  • COPD
  • Heart attack

It is important to note though that a person with health anxiety can fixate on any disease. Those listed are the most common.

Symptoms

There are a number of symptoms associated with this anxiety disorder. Typically, a person will visually scan his or her body for signs of an ailment. For example if they have a headache, they may believe that it is a brain tumor, or if someone has forgotten where he left his cell phone, he may take that to mean he has Alzheimer's.

Others believe they have a certain medical condition. They look for one of the many symptoms they can find related to that medical diagnosis and seek out a medical professional who will diagnose them with that disease or ailment. They will scour the Internet looking for the meaning of any issue they have. This is how the Internet causes health anxiety.

Here Is How the Internet Causes Health Anxiety

Google has made it very easy for the average person to self diagnose. Websites such WebMd, Healthline and Mayo Clinic, offer reputable medical information supplied by medical experts. These sites will let you put in your symptoms into a search and bring up a list of possible diagnoses. Many people just want to know if it is something worth calling the doctor about and then move on. For those that have health anxiety though, it is a fast road to disaster. This is because a person with this anxiety disorder is not able to make that quick switch in her head that tells her, "Hey, it's okay… nothing serious," and then go on about the day.

The person with this disorder will search headache and ringing in the ears to see that those are two symptoms are associated with brain tumors, high blood pressure or possible stroke and then believe he has one of those conditions. More searching will lead to more information about his possible illness. She won't stop searching until she has determined for sure which ailment she has and how long she has to live.

To Much of a Good Thing

While WebMd, Healthline and Mayo Clinic offer reliable health information, many sites do not. This is because the content on those sites is written by the average person with no medical experience but a flair for research. The best source of medical information you can get is from a trained medical professional. The information you find on the Internet should only be used help you decide if you should call the doctor.

Self Diagnosis

Here is a self-questionnaire to determine if you or someone you love has health anxiety.

  1. Have you experienced a preoccupation with having a serious illness due to a symptom you have that has been going on for the last six months?
  2. Has this preoccupation caused you any distress?
  3. Has this preoccupation impacted other areas of your life in a negative fashion?
  4. Have you felt the need to carry out repeated self-examinations and further research to self-diagnosis?
  5. Have you doubted a diagnosis or lack thereof from a medical professional?
  6. Do you repeatedly need reassurance from your medical care professional that there is nothing wrong with you?

If you have answered yes to all of these questions you may want to speak to your doctor about a possible diagnosis of a health related anxiety disorder.

Relax and Breathe

There are times when you have to accept that your headache is just that, a headache. That every time you feel a pain in your chest it is not necessarily a heart attack. The web offers a plethora of medical information, which is how the Internet causes health anxiety. Your best source for health information is actually your medical care professional.

  • Initial Author: Jennifer Shakeel
How the Internet Causes Health Anxiety