Web Sickness

Friday, May 27, 2011


Cyberchondria refers to the practice of using Internet search engines to wrongly diagnose oneself with serious illnesses. In this piece we originally aired in 2009, Carolyn Butler, columnist for The Washington Post talks about how cyberchondria came to be and she discusses her own bout with the dread disease.

Comments [4]

Travis from Athens, Ga

Watching cyberchondria in action is a great way to observe people engaged in confirmation bias. I think that the nature of symptomatic diagnosis is particularly encouraging of confirmation bias as many illnesses are billed as,"if you have 4 of the following symptoms, you might have [insert horrible disease here]".

May. 31 2011 04:17 PM
Juliea from Atlanta

Gee, the casual jocularity of this piece is a little disturbing. Unlike you and Ms. Butler, I do have MS and the web has been a tremendous asset. It has been a fantastic way for me to learn more about this disease, new research, wellness strategies and the inspiring stories of others. I now have access to resources that would have been unavailable 10 years ago. This information was extremely helpful to me in reaching a diagnosis that is often overlooked or mistaken for something else.

Anyone who reads the web without a critical eye and a sense of balance deserves a case of First Year Medical School Syndrome. But it's very poor advice to tell people to "step away from the internet." You should know better.

A continuing but disappointed listener,


May. 30 2011 02:24 PM
alex from paris

While it is true that some people over diagnos themselves, I can not thank the web enough for the research I have done on my husband's behalf. When someone, like the girl who reported here, says she thought she had MS, I bet you a million bucks, the people on the forums would have told her she was overreacting, not having enough symptoms to declare anything, and of course she should go to a doctor. But at the same time, we have educated ourselves so well now, that we can tell when a doctor knows of what he speaks, and we can see if the doctor cares to keep up with the latest discoveries, or has chosen to close all doors to new information.
Personally, I have had eye twitching, and never thought it was MS, but can recommend that the hypochondriac just take some magnesium and zinc supplements. They really help.

May. 30 2011 07:25 AM
patrick mcdermott from Omaha

Now that you've headlined a hypochondriac columnist, listen to the Society for Participatory Medicine, here:

Listen to people who are encouraged by Dr. Alan Greene and others to be the drivers, and not the passengers, of their own healthcare.

Your story is not an antidote for cyberchondria. Your story
is, in fact, just more cyberchondria (Gosh, what if we all
have cyberchondria!)

May. 30 2011 03:20 AM

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