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Do You Have Cyberchondria, and Do You Google Self Diagnose?


So you’ve had pain for a few days in your stomach region. You consider calling your OBGYN but you don’t feel like taking more time off from work. What do you do? Well, you could call on Dr. Google to help… after all, it’s faster and cheaper. 

The only problem with that is the first thing that pops up on your Google search is that you might need a hysterectomy! Although your discomfort is more likely caused by diet, stress, menstrual discomfort or lack of exercise, search engines have a tendency to list the most serious condition at the top of the search results. This not only leads to people self-diagnosing incorrectly, but it also leads to more anxiety than you had before you did the Google search.

Psychologists call this “cyberchondria” for obsessing on investigating health symptoms on the Internet. Think of it as online hypochondria. Studies are now showing that about 80 percent of women search online for wellness information and 60 percent of those queries are specifically to diagnose a current medical condition. Women on average see a doctor three times a year but spend about an hour a week(52 hours a year) searching for health information online. 

When people Google their symptoms, diagnosis or treatment, information that is confusing and possibly incorrect is poured out form medical website after medical website. Here’s another crazy stat. According to the Pew Research Center, only 50% of women who use the internet for self-diagnosis ever follow up by making an appointment with their OBGYN.

So, is cyberchondria offering help or causing more challenges in people’s health? At the Women’s Center of Orlando we actually understand why women would choose to search for health answers online rather than speak to their actual health care provider. Many OBGYNs make it very difficult to make appointments, have limited office locations, only have a small choice of health care providers, and don’t offer in-office procedures for the patient’s convenience.

People can all too often become convinced that they have an illness or condition after self-diagnosing online and then treat themselves. These treatments can be costly, both to their health and financially. Other women can be in denial and don’t want to visit their doctor for fear of an actual diagnosis. This can very dangerous for the patient’s health overall.

Here’s what might be a better approach for women who have a health concern. The data from your online search can be the beginning point and a catalyst for a conversation about your symptoms and your concerns. The health care provider then has the opportunity to either confirm or disprove the diagnosis by performing a proper evaluation during the appointment. This can lead to the relief at reaching an answer together.

Lastly, discuss with one of The Women’s Center health care providers about what Google health based sites are trusted sites for medical information. Sites ending in “ .gov” are sponsored by the federal government, sites ending in “ .edu” are run by medical schools and universities.

So, in summary, we encourage women to establish a relationship with one of our Women’s Center health care providers at one of our seven locations in Orange, Osceola or Seminole Counties. We have one of the largest OBGYN health care provider staffs in Central Florida; and with daily early hours, Saturday hours and numerous in-office procedures available for our patients’ convenience, we are nearly as available to you as Google! Just call 407.857.2502!

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