Cyberchondria: Do Online Health Searches Prompt Symptoms (and Worse)? | Mary Aiken

Cyberchondria: Do Online Health Searches Prompt Symptoms (and Worse)? | Mary Aiken

I’m sure everybody knows somebody who searches
health related information online. Well there’s actually a name for it and
it’s called cyberchondria. Cyberchondria is defined as anxiety induced
by escalation during online search to review morbid or serious content. So what does this mean? Well it means that you have a headache and
you end up reading about brain tumor. And there’s a very good reason behind it. Humans have a propensity to escalate, to review
the worst possible scenario probably to dismiss it. So come back to the headache. If you went to your doctor and you said I
have a terrible headache and your doctor said well, you could have anything from a hangover
to a brain tumor. You would say oh my goodness, talk to me about
the brain tumor. And essentially that’s what happens online. People click on the worst case scenario and
therefore those scenarios get driven up the search rankings. So the point about search it’s based on
a frequency model, things that are frequently clicked are those things that actually rise
to the top of search results. That’s fine if you’re looking at best
beach in Florida but when it comes to health related matters it’s problematic. Why? Because it causes anxiety and you could be
perfectly well but end up with a nasty case of health anxiety as a result of search. So the thing is if there’s something wrong
with your car and you Google it or search it inherently you’re not going to do any
damage to the car. But in terms of bodily symptoms, the very
act of searching can bring about or instigate psychosomatic factors. Psyche being mind and soma being body. So you can believe to feel that you are actually
suffering from some terrible condition. If you put any body part now into search what
you will see is pages of tumor and cancer. And, in fact, just a month or so ago on Google’s
official blog they have well, owned up to the issue and have also told us that one percent
of all online search actually relates to medical search, people Googling symptoms. I’ve published in this area and I’ve published
a paper which actually looks at a phenomenon which I name as cyberchondria by proxy. And that is people searching health results
of others. And the thing is if you survive the initial
search and you get to the intuitive diagnostic websites that prompt symptomatology it actually
can make the problem worse. Why? You’ve got a pain in your arm. Could be from carrying a heavy bag or a harsh
workout in the gym. You go online and you’re led through this
decision pathway. Is the pain radiating across your chest? Well it could be. Do you feel tingling in your fingertips? Well when I think about it I do. Are you palpitating? Well of course I am. You then rush to your GP, your doctor, and
you present with a cluster of symptoms that actually mimic a cardiac event. The point is that doctors don’t prompt symptoms
but artificial intelligence based systems diagnostic tools do. There’s a great paper called hypochondriacal
hermeneutics and the paper argues that the doctor-patient relationship is a hypochondriacal
exercise in its own right. One person sitting there talking about symptoms
and the other trying to interpret them. And effectively if you appear or manifest
with this perfect cluster your doctor has got no choice but to put you in the pipeline
for intrusive, diagnostic, investigative procedures which are all inherently risky. A report came out recently that was published
in the BMJ that has stated that iatrogenic death is the third cause of death in the USA. Iatrogenic would cover – it’s a catchall
for problems in terms of taking medication, medical error, infection. So it’s death by accident within the medical
system. But in my book I note and of course I’m
aware of causation correlation but there’s a very interesting trend that iatrogenic death
has increased fourfold between 1999 and 2011 and actually shadows the growth of the internet. Let’s think about that.


  1. what you state in the video thumbnail does not make me anything for googling the definition of a word that i do not know the meaning of. of course they are going to google its basically accusing you of being something they dont know the meaning of. knowledge is power in this world bottom feeder

  2. this video should have been uploaded 3 weeks earlier xD, i really was scared about having lung cancer.
    BUT YOU also need to have the ability to INTERPRET those symptoms correctly! if you google symptoms with the right mindset you will always get helpful advice. i for example was scared about having skin cancer. after a 4 hour research i knew exactly what i had, where it came from and how to detect it. This helped me a lot since i now knew that it was most likely NOT skin cancer. BUT i went to the dermatologist nevertheless because yes the internet is a really good help if you know how to use it, yet its nothing compared to a professional. AND BTW also keep in mind that most of the websites DONT KNOW your AGE! after my fear of lungcancer i managed to get statistics about lungcancer and i found out that people below the age of 30 RARELY get lungcancer compared to older people. (yes i am a hypochondriac) but its not the internet that made me one, ive been scared about a lot of diseases since i was 10 years old.

  3. So ignorance is better than the ultra minute risk of becoming a hypochondriac from being well informed.
    Good luck with that lady.

  4. Ppl make a condition and term for a made up illness for everything these days giving kids medication for every little thing…..

  5. I really didn't give a damn about what it is. So am I not a cyberchondriac? Damn it. I wanted to be something cool. Ffs.

  6. Wow people really took this video the wrong way. She's explaining a fault in search algorithms when it comes to self-diagnosis, and saying, "Instead of trying to play doctor, go see a real doctor." How is that controversial? Ten minutes on Google doesn't make you a health expert, go to a real health expert if you think something's wrong with you.

    "Cybercondria" is a silly word to apply to such a phenomenon, sure, but the message is a good one. Also the video thumbnail is fucking retarded.

  7. She talks weird and looks angry. I really don't like her face, it bothers me, can't understand what she is talking about. She looks like a banker or real-estate agent, basically despicable. My official diagnosis by proxy.

  8. it can't just be me or does the thumb nail make no fucking sense? I always google shit i don't know the meaning to, but i've never felt sick and go online and start googling symptoms and think im dying… like lmao what is this?

  9. this video is assuming I don't know how my own mind works.. this video makes no sense and isn't related to what the thumb nail says.. gg

  10. Actually, Cyberchondria are the "power centers" of the internet's web cells. They create power for each internet web cell and are the most important cybernelle.

  11. What's the overarching message here?
    Whatever potential ailment you might have, trying to figure it out can only exacerbate things?
    Seems kind of strange, but okay.

  12. The 1/3 number is so high because doctors are drug dealers paid by pharmaceutical companies who are merely legal drug czars. If your drug works why do you need to give doctors huge commissions to prescribe it? I'd rather get real treatment over being told to spend a college tuition on a drug that my doctor has been bribed to proscribe.

  13. While a lot of people are naive in this regard, online resources helped me identify my symptoms as Lupus, and my doctor is in agreement. My case is on the milder side, so if it weren't for the internet I'd have never been able to discover it.

  14. not at all. I search online a lot for my pets, they havent all dropped dead yet. Dohhhhhhhhhhhhh tiny think that was

  15. Doctor Google is still , overwhelmingly, I feel a usable diagnostic tool, as long as you do not try to interpret the cause or symptoms of a health issue, ad nauseum.

  16. I actually asked my doctor how he feels about people who bring up information they have found online.

    He said that rather than finding it annoying, he thinks it is empowering for them to be able to educate themselves and that it can be helpful.

  17. It's worth mentioning that search results are not just sorted by popularity in general but also for you personally. Everybody's search results on Google are different and if you're always searching for symptoms you'll be served more pages about symptoms.

  18. ever since I started watching 1000 ways to die, I have been concerned if the ways to die are real. That and I have been having cyberchondria about what bad I'm doing to my health, not letting me sleep and live my days in peace.

  19. Samething happened with me , my dr said why you are frightened , nothing is happened to you . Don't Google , believe me I have 10 years of experience .

  20. I have emetophobia, and every Google search tells me I will be nauseous and might vomit from whatever I have eaten / swallowed as a supplement etc. … I have read so much about food poisoning that I now think every bit of food I eat will give me food poisoning, although I never even once had any poisoning in my entire life, even when eating days old food left out in the open. Good to know that there is an actual name for this weird form of hypochondria. The first step towards healing ourselves is to stop using the internet so much. Panic is an ancient protection mechanism by the body to "set off the alarm" so to speak, to be ready for everything that might come, and the reason why many of us are here, alive and well, in the first place. However this alarm has become quite unnecessary, especially in highly developed countries, as natural dangers such as poisoning are lower than they have never been. However some people still start panicing when having to speak in front of many people, sweating, shaking, even getting nauseous for no reason whatsoever, basically the same symptoms your stone age ancestor had when he was in front of a tiger or mammoth, an actual threat to their life, which these days are nearly all eliminated. She is not just babbling, this is a real thing and people like me suffer from it.

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