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            Last Upd: 09:31am 03 Feb

            SEARCH                           Cyber health paranoia
                                             Article By: Bryony Whitehead
                                             Wed, 03 Feb 2010 09:31


                                             Picture this: you've discovered a blemish on your
                                             hand. It's itchy, but not alarmingly so, though the
                                             look of it is. You decide to do a bit of internet
            WEATHER                          research to find out whether you should be
                                             worried. Enter 'red flaky skin' into Google's magic
                                             box and voila! The first few links are for skin
             Ctn | Dbn | Jhb | Other         cancer.

                    16° 24°     › More       Ok, now you're worried. You begin to read — first
                                             link, second link. You've got leads now — and not
                                             only is your one symptom pointing to a "fatal and
            INDICATORS                       rare cancer form" but you've noticed a lack of               sxc.hu
                                             appetite recently — another symptom. Oh no!
            $ = R 7.47                       Dizzy — another sign? Wait, didn't you have to
                                             take a breather on the bench at the mall on
            £ = R 11.89                                                                                         Latest     Talked About      Editor's Choice
                                             Saturday from a brief dizzy spell? And you thought
            € = R 10.42                      it was a sugar low.
            Oil = $ 75.74                                                                                  Today, 03 February 2010
            Gold = $ 1116.1                  If there's a time to panic, it certainly seems like
                                             now is good. But stop. It's not worth getting your            ›   FF+ threatens mass action
            Last Update:                                                                                   ›   Cape 'sex school' exposed
                                             knickers in a knot over a few internet links. You're
            17:02 03 Feb 10                  a rational person, so why do you believe the few              ›   Zuma, Khoza are 'married'
                                             symptoms you've read on the internet so                       ›   Tokyo's niece flames Zuma
            SPONSORED LINKS ›                completely? Never stopped to think about it that              ›   Student sells virginity
                                             way? That goes for almost eighty percent of
                Property Search              internet users worldwide. It's even got a name:
                                             cyberchondria. You bet.                                       Yesterday, 02 February 2010
                Cars Online                                                                                ›   Zuma did 'nothing wrong'
                                             Hypochondria's evil twin is on the rise. Where
                                             hypochondria is a psychological disorder suffered             ›   Join military, urges ANCYL
                UK & Euro Lotto’s
                                             by a small amount of people worldwide,                        ›   Zuma must behave - Zille
                Life Insurance Quote         cyberchondria seems to effect even the most                   ›   SA recalls 'turning point'
                                             rational among us. Let's face it, we're all guilty of         ›   28 name changes approved
                Online Dating                showing a little paranoia about a symptom or two.

                Save on your                 Just one symptom
                insurance
                Houses for sale              Similar to hypochondriacs, cyberchondriacs will
                                             fixate on a particular symptom, believing it to be
                                             potentially fatal. While searching for explanation of
                Win the Lottery
                                             a symptom online, cyberchondriacs tend to latch
                Local sleepovers             onto the worst diagnoses they come across,
                                             obsessing over the symptoms and working
                Work money smarter           themselves up into a froth of anxiety. But it                                                                         Ask a Doctor
                                             doesn't make sense to make your own diagnosis                                                                         Online Now
                Wine of the Week             based on information you may have read online.
                                             Especially if you haven't checked your sources.                                                                       9 Doctors Are
                Local sleepovers                                                                                                                                   Online. Ask a
                                             Jumping to conclusions                                                                                                Question, Get an
                Work money smarter
                                             The well known fallacy is called the "Base Rate                                                                       Answer ASAP.
                                             Neglect" fallacy and explains why there are so                                                                        Health.JustAnswer.com
                Wine of the Week
                                             many of us suffering from cyberchondria. Simply
                Go shopping!                 put, most of us suffer from jumping to conclusions
                                             without getting hold of correct information or, just
                Convert anything             choosing to believe the insufficient information we
                                             come across.
                Henrie's Recipes
                                             The fallacy explains how you could believe a
                Price your home              hypothesis that gives some evidence of one thing
                                             without taking into consideration the prior
                Dining out                   probability or, statistical and overall factual
                                             evidence that contribute to the reasonable
                                             possibility of that hypothesis actually being true.

                                             For example, to believe that your skin blemish is a
            GET IN TOUCH ›                   rare cancer when you have a) only read one or two
                                             pop-psychology pieces online and have not
                                             checked their credibility and b) you haven't taken into consideration that the pieces you have read also say
                                             that the cancer is both rare and only found in people that carry a specific gene, is totally blowing your
                                             symptoms out of proportion. How on earth could you possibly know that's you?

                                             Online medical students

            Got something to say?            Microsoft researcher and himself a medical doctor, Eric Horvitz, explains to The Independent UK: "The same
            Click here to send a mail        thing happened before the internet. I remember getting worried when I was studying medicine. According
            to editor Bryony                 to one study, up to 75 per cent of first- and second-year medical students end up thinking they have one
            Whitehead.                       significant yet imaginary disease based on what they're learning – some call it 'medical school-itis'."

                                             In some respects, our easy access to medical information makes internet users prone to the same
                                             psychoses. In other words, while we're intelligent and rational, at some stage we'll fall prey to an internet
                                             diagnosis.

                                             The cure

                                             So what is the solution? See a doctor? Stop surfing the internet? Apparently not. Contrary to all of the
                                             above, the availability of medical information online has made us more aware and attentive to our health.
                                             Many, including doctors, believe that education and awareness surrounding health has never been so
                                             popular. People are more interested in their health and take better care of themselves as a result. So while
                                             knowledge found on the internet may not be complete, it's better than no knowledge at all. The important
                                             part is acknowledging the potential shortfalls of your concerns and following up to see a doctor.




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