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Health: Do You Suffer From Cyberchondria?

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Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3 and The CW Philly 57’s Emmy Award-win...
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By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Getting medical information online is a growing trend that could be dangerous. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl says the condition has its own name.

From the common cold to rare and exotic diseases, the internet is filled with information about every possible ailment.

“I do it all the time. I look things up all the time,” said J’nelle Agee.

She says surfing the internet for health information can be confusing and sometimes makes her feel worse.

“You keep reading all this information because it’s not just from one person. It’s from various sources,” said J’nelle.

It’s called cyberchondria, a form of hypochondria linked to the internet.

“My left arm was getting quite numb and sore. I looked that up and the first thing that shows up, heart attack,” said Lisa Lok, a self proclaimed cyberchondriac.

The 28-year-old says she can’t stop. With each symptom she reads about, there’s another right behind it.

“I’m hoping to find a sense of relief, but usually the exact opposite thing happens. I’m stressing myself. Do I have this? Do I have that?” said Lisa.

She has diagnosed herself with everything from heart disease to melanoma, but there’s never been anything wrong with her, other than the stress and anxiety she suffers from self-diagnosing.

“I’ve gotten yelled at by numerous people in my family because I’m stressing myself out for no reason, and that’s bad for health in the first place,” said Lisa.

“We all do this, I mean we all do this,” said Dr. David Rose, an Internist.

He says you can’t believe everything you read, and even when there is legitimate information, it’s easy to misinterpret.

“The thing with the internet is there’s just an enormous amount of information out there and much of it is not reliable or accurate,” said Dr. Rose.

There are exceptions. Government websites are credible. Anything that ends with .gov is usually a good resource for medical information.

There’s no substitution for seeing a doctor.

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