By Dr. Shreya Chatterjee, Psychology
Health anxiety is a form of anxiety disorder, which falls under the obsessive compulsive disorder group. People with health anxiety are likely to be worrying about health all the time and suffer from the anxiety of falling sick.
This in return causes great mental stress – The Internet is considered to be a boon for health problems and finding their remedies, but at the same time internet increases the chance or severity of health anxiety.
The Internet’s role in causing health anxiety – The Internet has made the life of the people way easier, as one may search on google to know about self-diagnosis as regards any health condition. There has been a steady growth of health websites, which give people medical information on any kind of health problem, disorder or disease. People can write down any medical symptoms they are facing in the search bar, and the sites provide a list of treatments and cure.
However, in case of people who suffer from health anxiety, these Internet health information sites can turn out to be disastrous. People suffering from health anxiety cannot reassure them that nothing has happened and tend to ponder over petty medical symptoms to draw a bigger picture. These people will be alarmed by the slightest of medical symptoms even though they are nothing serious to be concerned about. A simple case of headache or ringing in the ears would drive such people to search the Internet rigorously. They may think that the petty symptoms they experience might be associated with brain tumor, hypertension or stroke and believe that they have been affected.
They will keep on surfing the Internet, find more diseases linked to their symptoms and will get more anxious. They will not stop searching the Internet until they discover what has happened to them and how to treat the condition, while, in reality, nothing has happened.
Moreover, most of the health information websites provide unreliable health information, which may mislead a person to enhance health anxiety. Some dedicated websites provide proper information written by health experts and doctors, but most other medical websites have content that is written by people who do not have much knowledge about medical health. Thus, such wrong information can lead a person down the wrong path and cause serious anxiety, stress and tension. They will be afraid of being infected by a disease, but in reality, nothing much serious has happened. The Internet may be a blessing indeed, but in cases of medical health information, it may cause serious health anxiety disorders and added mental stress by misleading people or making them too much worried.