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Cyberchondria

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Cyberchondria is a colloquial term for hypochondria in individuals who have researched medical conditions on the internet.

Traditional hypochondriacs may take advantage of the availability of medical information on the internet. Additionally, those who have no history of hypochondria may develop some degree of it due to the unprecedented ease of access afforded by the internet.

Individuals who do not fully trust their doctors or test results, for any of a variety of reasons, may use the internet in an attempt to figure out what diseases their symptoms may point to. The information available on websites may be incorrect or incomplete, leading to incorrect self-diagnoses.

Many reputable medical organizations have websites that may include information ranging from brief overviews of various conditions for individuals with a general curiosity to more detailed information to aid the understanding of people who have been properly diagnosed. These sites can be misused, however, by people who mistakenly believe that the information found at these sites is sufficient to make a diagnosis.

There are also many websites that offer medical information but do not have any connection to a professional medical organization. The relative ease of authoring a website allows almost any individual to create their own without having the information on it verified by any medical authority. Personal websites may be created by individuals personally affected by a condition, with the goal of promoting awareness and helping other who are affected by the same condition. These sites can have the same problems as websites put up by professional medical organizations. In addition, the unverified nature of the information on them increases the risk of misinformation being present.

Some life-threatening diseases, including HIV infections, have very general flu-like symptoms. Sites that spread medical information without stressing that many conditions (both major and minor) can have similar symptoms, and proper diagnoses is generally impossible without the help of a medical professional, can lead to undue panic in people who come to believe that their minor illnesses are caused by crippling diseases. Such incorrect self-diagnoses can lead to anxiety, guilt, and depression. These may eventually manifest as psychosomatic symptoms, becoming a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

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