Monday, January 26, 2009

Cyber-Chondria: An Unchecked Epidemic?

Cyber-chondria or self-diagnosis via the Internet has been steadily growing since everyone learned of that “free clinic” on the Web. Will this “dangerous epidemic” ever be checked?

By: Vanessa Uy

Ever since surfing on the Internet for academic research became fashionable during the latter part of the 1990’s, anyone with a middle school-level grasp of the English language can – with the aid of relatively foolproof late 20th Century-era search engines – uncover relatively esoteric medical entries on the Internet. Thus the disease called cyber-chondria – also known as surf-diagnosis – was born.

The term cyber-chondria is a “cyberspace-era corruption” of hypochondria, which is an extreme depression of the mind often centered on imaginary physical ailments. Doctors had always advised us common folks against self-diagnosis, which is the frequent cause of hypochondriasis, especially those with very scant medical knowledge of one’s own anatomy and physiology beyond that of the soap opera General Hospital.

The perils behind cyber-chondria was lampooned in an episode of “The Simpsons” when Lisa Simpson tricked her dad Homer and her brother Bart that the two of them had contracted leprosy in order for the two of them to adopt a more "sanitary" lifestyle. In reality according to the latest research, on-line self-diagnosis / surf-diagnosis can usually lead to cyber-chondria when someone of scant medical knowledge and training manages to stumble into websites about exotic diseases whose symptomatology resembles their current condition. When in truth, they could have just mundane – even minor – health problems.

The problems posed by on-line self-diagnosis is not only when someone is bamboozled into purchasing on-line really expensive “miracle cures” that could treat their “imaginary illnesses”, but also, they could uncover diseases that require extremely dangerous medication in order to cure. Like being mistaken during the course of your on-line medical self-diagnosis that in order to get better, you should take arsenic and mercury-based medication. Which you have the unfortunate misfortune of having one still available in your medicine cabinet.

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