The urban dictionary defines a cyberchondriac as “A hypochondriac who imagines that he or she has a particular disease based on medical information gleaned from the Internet.”
The reason I have a problem with this term is it’s condescending and frequently misused. There is a big difference between an anxiety-based disorder and someone who has exhausted all other options to figure out what’s wrong with their health.
For example, I created this website, “I Told You I Was Sick” because, despite what many doctors told me, I wasn’t a hypo or cyberchondriac at all. I had gluten intolerance and didn’t know it. If it wasn’t for the years of research I’d done online about natural health, wellness, and nutrition, I wouldn’t be where I am today and I wouldn’t be able to help others.
Are You Really a Cyberchondriac?
To determine if the term cyberchondriac really applies to you, you first have to think about why you’re researching symptoms online.
First Category – Cyberchondriac:
- You feel compelled to look up symptoms of nearly every disease you learn about.
- When your best friend says she has a headache, you think she’s dying of a brain tumor.
- You look up a new ache, pain or illness everyday.
- The Internet is the place you get your medical advice.
Secondary Category – Not a Cyberchondriac
- You’ve been researching the same symptoms for years because your doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with you.
- You’re looking for community on chronic pain forums because friends and family aren’t taking you seriously.
- When you change your diet (gluten free, Paleo), you notice real improvement in your health.
- You continue to seek out open-minded medical professionals to help you.
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Your Own Best Advocate
If you fall into the second category, it’s important you understand that there is nothing wrong with you mentally. Even if you’ve been told you’re just “diagnosing yourself with the latest thing”, you’re on a journey. You’re making a real attempt to figure out what’s causing your mystery symptoms so you can wake up to a better tomorrow.
That takes courage. With so many people looking at you as though you’ve lost your mind, it takes real faith to keep going and get to the bottom of what’s going on with you. Don’t let your doctor make you feel bad about looking up information online. Sometimes, you’re your own best advocate. If your physician tries to shame you for bringing in copies of legitimate research, he’s not the right doctor for you. Find one who is more open-minded.
The Importance of the Right Medical Ally
The right physician will not look at you as though you’ve grown two heads when you tell him you’ve started juicing or dry skin brushing. He won’t just chuckle and hand you yet another prescription for a pain drug. He’ll listen. Having the right medical ally in your corner is very important when you’re struggling with any kind of chronic illness. This gives you the validation and support you need to know that you’re not alone and you’re not crazy.
If You Really are a Cyberchondriac
If you fall more into the first category of people who just look up random symptoms online, stop. You’re only going to increase your anxiety by reading about medical problems all the time. The more you focus on it, the more your anxiety will grow. Anxiety is not a mental illness and it can be easily corrected. If you need help with anxiety attacks or obsessive compulsive disorder, The Linden Method can help you get them under control.
When you suffer from mystery symptoms you can’t explain, the Internet offers a wealth of information and resources to help you on your journey to wellness. Be sure to enlist the help of a professional conventional, naturopathic or osteopathic physician who can give you the validation and support you need on your journey.
Don’t give up and trust your instincts. A healthier you is just around the corner.
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