Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Do you have 'cyberchondria'?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 16, 2010 at 8:49 AM

In a time when tens of millions of people are uninsured or under-insured, it's no wonder people are looking to the Internet for medical advice. But, how can you determine which information is reliable? And, can you tell the difference between a heart attack and a dislodged rib?

MSNBC's Samantha Murphy reports on the 'cyberchondria' phenomenon:

"It’s important to stay up on health-related information … but because information on the Web is so unfathomably plentiful, so readily available, and so unsorted, it's easy for someone to jump to the conclusion that they have a brain tumor when in fact it’s just a sinus infection,” according to Judy Segal, professor of English at the University of British Columbia who works on the cultural studies of medicine.

To complicate matters further, a lot of the medical information available for free online is actually accurate and reliable, experts say.

"The problem is, though, that even when the information is reliable, our ability to know what to do with it isn’t," Segal told MyHealthNewsDaily. "Medical problems are often complicated, and someone without a medical background may jump to false conclusions."

Segal believes the Internet encourages hypochondria, itself a medical condition. Hypochondriacs are people so concerned about particular diseases that they tend to not trust physicians when they are told there is nothing wrong with them.

"When there’s so much information out there, it’s easy to focus on what could be possible, even if the chances are very slim," Segal said. "The Internet brings out the hypochondriac in all of us."

Read the rest of this article here.

Here are some tips for finding reliable medical information online:

Rhiannon "Rhi" Bowman is an independent journalist who contributes snarky commentary on Creative Loafing's CLog blog four days a week in addition to writing for several other local media organizations. To learn more, click the links or follow Rhi on Twitter.

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