Cibercondria: La peligrosa enfermedad del autodiagnóstico online

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Cibercondria: La peligrosa enfermedad del autodiagnóstico online

Cibercondria: La peligrosa enfermedad del autodiagnóstico online

Subtítulo de texto
La sociedad actual cargada de información ha llevado a que un número cada vez mayor de personas queden atrapadas en un ciclo de problemas de salud autodiagnosticados.
    • Autor:
    • Nombre del autor
      Previsión Quantumrun
    • 6 de junio de 2022

    Resumen de información

    The phenomenon of cyberchondria, where individuals obsessively search online for health-related information mirrors the repetitive anxiety-alleviating rituals seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). While not officially a recognized mental disorder, it has significant societal implications, including potential isolation and strained personal relationships. Various strategies are emerging to combat this issue, including cognitive behavioral therapy for affected individuals and the development of technology to monitor and alert users about their search patterns.

    Contexto de cibercondria

    It is not uncommon for a person to do additional research on a suspect medical problem, whether it be a cold, rash, bellyache, or some other ailment. However, what happens when the search for health and diagnostic information becomes an addiction? This tendency can lead to cyberchondria, a combination of “cyberspace” and “hypochondria,” with hypochondria being an illness anxiety disorder.

    Cyberchondria is a technology-based mental disorder where a person spends hours researching illness symptoms online. Psychologists discovered that the primary motivation behind such obsessive googling is self-assurance, but instead of a person becoming assured, they instead make themselves increasingly anxious. The more a cyberchondriac tries to find information online to assure themselves that their illness is minor, the more they spiral into cycles of increased anxiety and stress.

    Cyberchondriacs also purportedly tend to jump to the worst conclusion possible, further deepening feelings of anxiety and stress. Doctors believe that a breakdown in the metacognitive process is the primary cause of the illness. Metacognition is the process of thinking about how a person thinks and learns. Instead of planning for good or desired outcomes through logical thinking, a cyberchondriac falls into a mental trap of worsening scenarios.

    Impacto disruptivo

    While cyberchondria is not officially recognized as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, it shares notable similarities with OCD. Individuals grappling with cyberchondria can find themselves incessantly researching symptoms and illnesses online, to a point where it hampers their ability to engage in offline activities. This behavior mirrors the repetitive tasks or rituals performed by people with OCD to alleviate anxiety. The societal implication here is significant; individuals may become increasingly isolated, and their personal relationships might suffer. 

    Fortunately, there are avenues for assistance available for those experiencing cyberchondria, including cognitive behavioral therapy. This approach aids individuals in scrutinizing the evidence that led them to believe they have a severe condition, steering their focus away from the perceived illness and towards managing their feelings of worry and concern. On a larger scale, technology companies have a role to play in mitigating the effects of cyberchondria. For instance, Google encourages users to treat online information as a reference, not a replacement for professional medical advice. Furthermore, tech firms can develop algorithms to monitor the frequency of a user's medical-related searches, and upon reaching a certain threshold, notify them of the potential for cyberchondria.

    Governments and organizations can also take proactive steps to curb the rise of cyberchondria. Education campaigns that emphasize the importance of consulting with healthcare professionals for medical advice, rather than solely relying on online information, can be beneficial. Moreover, encouraging a balanced approach to online health research, which includes verifying information from reputable sources, can be a vital strategy in combating misinformation and undue panic. 

    Implicaciones para la cibercondria 

    Wider implications of people suffering from cyberchondria may include:

    • A surge in 24/7 online consultations offered by medical practitioners at reduced fees, aiming to reduce the reliance on search engines for healthcare information and diagnoses.
    • Governments initiating more research into cyberchondria and potential treatments, particularly as the number of health-related websites grows.
    • Regulatory bodies mandating explicit disclaimers on search engines and healthcare websites, urging users to seek professional medical advice, which could instill a more critical approach to online information and potentially reduce the instances of self-diagnosis based on unverified information.
    • The emergence of educational programs in schools that focus on the responsible use of the internet for health-related research, fostering a generation that is adept at distinguishing between credible sources and misinformation.
    • The development of new business models for tech companies, focusing on monitoring and alerting users about potential cyberchondria tendencies, which could open up a new market for digital health tools and services.
    • An increase in roles such as online health educators and consultants, who guide individuals in navigating health information online.
    • The rise in community outreach programs that aim to educate the elderly and other demographic groups who may be more susceptible to cyberchondria.
    • An increase in the environmental footprint of the healthcare sector, as 24/7 online consultations could lead to a rise in the usage of electronic devices and energy consumption.
    • Political debates and policies centered around the ethical considerations of monitoring individuals' search histories to prevent cyberchondria, which might raise concerns regarding privacy and the extent to which tech companies can intervene in users' browsing habits.

    Preguntas a considerar

    • ¿Alguna vez ha sido culpable de convertirse temporalmente en cibercondríaco durante una enfermedad pasada?
    • ¿Cree que la pandemia de COVID-19 ha contribuido o empeorado la aparición de cibercondría en los internautas? 

    Referencias de información

    Se hizo referencia a los siguientes enlaces populares e institucionales para esta perspectiva: