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Cyberchondria is a colloquial term to describe the behavior of individuals who use the Internet to gather information on health or healthcare, for themselves or people in their care. The market research company Harris Interactive Inc., which makes use of the word in various studies, states that cyberchondria literally means "online concern about health."[1] Articles in popular media position cyberchondria anywhere from temporary neurotic excess to adjunct hypochondria.



The term "cyberchondria" appears to be a portmanteau neologism derived from the terms cyber- and hypochondria. (The term "-chondria" derives from Greek and literally means "cartilage" or "breast bone.")

Researchers at Harris Interactive have clarified this etymology, and state in studies and interviews that the term is not necessarily intended to be pejorative.[2]

Medical websites

Many reputable medical organizations maintain websites that may include brief overviews of various conditions for individuals with a general curiosity, or more detailed information to aid the understanding of people who have been properly diagnosed. However, some life-threatening diseases, including HIV infections, can present themselves with very general flu-like symptoms. Sites that disseminate medical information without stressing that many conditions (both major and minor) can have similar symptoms, and that proper diagnosis is generally impossible without the help of a medical professional, can potentially cause undue panic in those cyberchondriacs who are also hypochondriacs. These individuals can come to believe that their minor illnesses are caused by crippling diseases, and these incorrect self-diagnoses can lead to anxiety, guilt, and depression.

Less reputable websites may deliberately encourage hypochondria to get people to visit their site or to buy expensive and unnecessary medication.

Opening lines of communication

Some medical practitioners are open to cyberchondriacs' personal research, as this can open lines of communication between doctors and patients, and prove valuable in eliciting more complete or pertinent information from the patient about their present condition.

Other doctors express concern about patients who self-diagnose on the basis of information obtained from the internet when the patient demonstrates an incomplete or distorted understanding of other diagnostic possibilities and medical likelihoods. A patient who exaggerates one set of symptoms in support of their self-diagnosis while minimizing or suppressing contrary symptoms can impair rather than enhance a doctor's ability to reach a correct diagnosis. [3]


  1. ^ The Future Use of the Internet in 4 Countries in Relation to Prescriptions,Physician Communication and Health Information. Harris Interactive (2002-06-20). Retrieved on 2006-12-11.
  2. ^ Ackerman, Kate (2005-08-04). Survey Gauges Number of Cyberchondriacs in the U.S.. California Healthcare Foundation. Retrieved on 2006-12-11.
  3. ^ 'Cyberchondria' hits web users. BBC News (2001-04-13). Retrieved on 2006-12-11.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Cyberchondria". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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