Sick with worry: Could you have cyberchondria?

Aug 12 2022

Do you Google your symptoms? Do you convince yourself that you have a condition based on what you’ve read? And does this whole process make you extremely anxious?

Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin, Director of Hunter Medical Research Institute, psychologist and mental health researcher is currently seeking participants for a new cyberchondria and health anxiety study.

What is cyberchondria? Cyberchondria refers to a clinical phenomenon in which repeated Internet searches regarding medical information result in excessive concerns about physical health.

Professor Kay-Lambkin says a few years ago, ‘cyberchondria’ didn’t really exist.

“Today, we use cyberchondria to describe situations where people feel compelled to continue to search online and seek reassurance about fears associated with their health or illness, worries about having developed a serious illness, various bodily symptoms they are concerned about, and so on,” Professor Kay-Lambkin said.

“In some cases, consulting ‘Dr Google’ can be helpful – it can reduce anxiety, provide answers and encourage people to seek care when appropriate.

“The trouble is, we can’t control these responses very well. We can get into a habit of continually checking ourselves and online for information about what’s happening in our bodies and when this starts to affect our ability to function in the world, that’s when doctors and psychologist start to get concerned.”

Professor Kay-Lambkin and her team from the Hunter Medical Research Institute and the University of Newcastle want to explore these issues in their new study Health Anxiety and the Internet: Understanding Cyberchondria and Behaviour Patterns of Australians.

If you are over the age of 18, an Australian citizen and don’t suffer from any chronic physical or mental health conditions you may be eligible to help in the study.

Eligible participants will only be required to complete a one-off online survey about anxiety and their online habits. Eligible participants will also go into the draw to win an iPad.

For more information on the online cyberchondria study, please click here.