Apparently I am not alone.
I am often made fun of by family and friends for what were semi-frequent emergency room visits for what I thought were symptoms of serious illness but what happened to be symptoms of perfectly harmless conditions.
On Kerri and my road trip to Canada in 2002 I went to St. Mary’s hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado because I was convinced I had a brain tumor. It turned out to be caffeine withdrawal – once we reached our destinations I stopped chugging Mountain Dew, on which my body had apparently become dependent. Anyway, headaches that would not subside after thousands of milligrams of pain reliever concerned me – and the results on WebMD were not encouraging. I also had a trip to the hospital in Tucson after I thought I was having heart complications. (Turned out to be pleurisy).
Well, it turns out I’m not alone. A study by Microsoft on “Cyberchondria” came out with some very interesting results:
The study suggests that self-diagnosis by search engine frequently leads Web searchers to conclude the worst about what ails them.
Although the term “cyberchondria” emerged in 2000 to refer to the practice of leaping to dire conclusions while researching health matters online, the Microsoft study is the first systematic look at the anxieties of people doing searches related to health care, Eric Horvitz said.
They found that Web searches for things like headache and chest pain were just as likely or more likely to lead people to pages describing serious conditions as benign ones, even though the serious illnesses are much more rare.
For example, there were just as many results that linked headaches with brain tumors as with caffeine withdrawal, although the chance of having a brain tumor is infinitesimally small.
About a third of the subjects “escalated” their follow-up searches to explore serious illnesses, the researchers said.
So there! I’m not crazy – I am clearly a cyberchondriac. I wonder what medication I should take?