Dott. Andrea Marliani M.D.
The term Cyberchondria is a neologism deriving from the union of the words cyber and hypochondria. It indicates a patient’s unfounded concern about common symptoms resulting from web searches.
Cyberchondria is an emerging and highly topical problem for healthcare professionals. Through the web anyone can search for any pathology and the symptoms associated with it. This attitude, now very widespread in the patient community, produces some important consequences that are explicit at the moment of the medical examination:
- State of “medical” anxiety at the time of the visit
- Difficulty of the doctor in collecting a correct medical history
- Modification of symptoms aimed at supporting one’s “self-diagnosis”
In these situations, it often happens that the cyberchondriac leaves the medical examination disappointed as he believes that the doctor has underestimated his “symptoms” and only prescribed symptomatic or surface-level treatment. Usually in these cases the patient returns to the web (blog, forum, etc.) where he hears further opinions which further amplify his previous state of anxiety.
In the range of possible diagnostic hypotheses, the cyberchondriac always embraces the most serious and fatal. Microsoft itself has analyzed the online behavior of millions of internet users and has concluded that the typical attitude of the cyber researcher is to evaluate the first 3 results offered by the search engine at the most, with easy-to-imagine results:
headache = brain neoplasm
sternal pain = heart attack
…and so on.
The phenomenon is aggravated by the fact that information on any pathology can be found online and often those who seek them do not check the sources (see blogs and forums).
Certainly, the internet is an important source of resources and information, but the medium must be used correctly and with common sense.
In trichology the topics most frequently addressed by this problem are:
– Induced fall (that is, the increase in hair loss that can occur after the start of some types of trichological treatments and which is viewed by patients with great fear)
– Duration of treatment (patients are often obsessed with the idea of having to follow the treatment for their entire existence)
– Drug addiction (patients are afraid that the clinical situation will rapidly deteriorate upon discontinuation of drug treatments, leading to worse situations than pre-treatment)
– Irreversible side effects
– Alternative therapies of dubious scientific value.