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Microsoft Researchers Study "Cyberchondria" 144

Posted by kdawson
from the it's-just-a-tummy-ache dept.
Slatterz introduces us to the first major study on "cyberchondria" by Microsoft researchers (abstract, paper [PDF]). The news that it can be a bad idea to search the Internet to see if you have a terrible disease should come as no surprise. According to the NYTimes article, the syndrome has been known as "cyberchondria" since at least the year 2000 (we discussed it a few years back). It refers to increased anxiety brought on when people with little or no medical training go searching for answers to common medical complaints on the Web. The article compares cyberchondria with a phenomenon well known among second-year medical students, called "medical schoolitis." The researchers note that Web searchers' propensity to jump to awful conclusions is "basic human behavior that has been noted by research scientists for decades."
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Microsoft Researchers Study "Cyberchondria"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 28, 2008 @01:37PM (#25917529)

    Cyberchondria Wikia - A variant of Cyberchondria in which symptoms, causes and diseases change at random when suggested by other users

    • IANAD, but I know several personally, and also from trips to the GP. From what I gather, they quite like that a patient researches the symptoms and mentions this to the Dr. They don't like a patient coming in and saying, "Doctor, I have this illness and require this medication." Self diagnosis is a useful tool for any medical practitioner, but self medication can always be dangerous. A profesional opinion is something that can't be read or learned on the internet.

      A side note, I had dinner with a coup
      • they quite like that a patient researches the symptoms and mentions this to the Dr. They don't like a patient coming in and saying, "Doctor, I have this illness and require this medication."

        Agree. I had mentioned in a previous post [slashdot.org] that information on the Internet can be rather useful. I do enjoy patients who do reserach beforehand, so they come prepared. Typically they will say, "Well, I know we're not supposed to believe everything on the Internet, but I looked on WebMD, and it said [such and such]."

        • The Internet can also be a useful tool in cases of rare diseases. In my case, I'm losing vision rapidly, due to an unusual cone dystrophy. After visiting many Ophthalmologists, the verdict is in: I'm going legally blind, fairly rapidly, and there's nothing that can be done about it. No particular doctor has the time to research exactly what's going on in my case, so the Internet is my friend.

          After much research on-line, I think I've found the only published study on-line of anyone with my specific condit

          • by gunnk (463227)
            I'm *really* sorry about your situation. Let me add my experience (which has a happier ending).

            When my daughter was five she had some tests come back with abnormal results. Our pediatrician referred us to a nephrologist. The nephrologist told us to educate ourselves about her condition and to prepare for the worst. The initial prognosis: she'd likely not live to turn 18.

            My response was to dive in via the web. I dug as deep as I could into the condition -- all the way into reading med school lecture no
            • I'm glad to hear about your daughter. My brother had a similar diagnosis when little. I remember my parents trying to figure out how to buy a dialysis machine. He had a "miraculous" recovery. Fortunately for me, I'm in a good position to do well with very poor eye sight, so don't worry about me.

    • Oh god! I think I have that [citation needed].

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by richlv (778496)

        the citation of new memes shocks me slightly only because old ones are lost too easily.
        i mean, i don't have housemaid's knee !!!!!!!!!!11111~~~~

        for the uninitiated :

        I remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the treatment for some slight ailment of which I had a touch - hay fever, I fancy it was. I got down the book, and read all I came to read; and then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to indolently study diseases, generally. I forget which was the first distemper I plunged into - some fearful, devastating scourge, I know - and, before I had glanced half down the list of "premonitory symptoms," it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it.

        I sat for awhile, frozen with horror; and then, in the listlessness of despair, I again turned over the pages. I came to typhoid fever - read the symptoms - discovered that I had typhoid fever, must have had it for months without knowing it - wondered what else I had got; turned up St. Vitus's Dance - found, as I expected, that I had that too, - began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom, and so started alphabetically - read up ague, and learnt that I was sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about another fortnight. Bright's disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in a modified form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might live for years. Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diphtheria I seemed to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid's knee.

        I felt rather hurt about this at first; it seemed somehow to be a sort of slight. Why hadn't I got housemaid's knee? Why this invidious reservation? After a while, however, less grasping feelings prevailed. I reflected that I had every other known malady in the pharmacology, and I grew less selfish, and determined to do without housemaid's knee. Gout, in its most malignant stage, it would appear, had seized me without my being aware of it; and zymosis I had evidently been suffering with from boyhood. There were no more diseases after zymosis, so I concluded there was nothing else the matter with me.

        I sat and pondered. I thought what an interesting case I must be from a medical point of view, what an acquisition I should be to a class! Students would have no need to "walk the hospitals," if they had me. I was a hospital in myself. All they need do would be to walk round me, and, after that, take their diploma.

        all hail Jerome K. Jerome.
        * if there really is somebody who has not read this book, do that tomorrow. citation from http://www.classicbookshelf.com/library/jerome_k_jerome/three_men_in_a_boat/0/ [classicbookshelf.com]

    • This is such old news that one of my favourite books, Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, has already covered it. [google.com.au] Published in 1889, and required reading for anyone with a sense of humour.
  • by Z80xxc! (1111479) on Friday November 28, 2008 @01:42PM (#25917573)
    The problem might not be the use of the internet for information, so much as how people are going about getting and using that information. Just like one wouldn't trust some random person off the street or even some unknown doctor-like person in a white coat walking down the hall at the hospital, one can't blindly trust information on the internet. Getting a second opinion, (and a third, and a fourth) might help people to get a better idea of what's truly happening. They should still talk to a doctor, rather than relying solely on their internet diagnosis, but they might be able to at least get a general idea of what might be wrong. Using medical information on the web as one's only source is irresponsible; it should be common sense to get a balanced opinion and also to see a real medical professional.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by westlake (615356)
      The problem might not be the use of the internet for information, so much as how people are going about getting and using that information.

      The Microsoft research paper addresses this directly by comparing and contrasting how users responded to searches through MSN and MSN Health and Fitness, which searches a limited number of trusted sources for public health information. As you would expect, sites which are carefully vetted and never needlessly provocative or alarmist calm most fears.

    • by zolltron (863074)

      The problem isn't so much that the information isn't reliable, just that important parts are left out or not considered by the individual. For instance, the base rates of many diseases tell you a lot about what your likely to have given a particular set of symptoms. Most websites don't give you that information, or when they do individuals ignore it. As a result, they tend to believe that they have a terrible disease based on true but incomplete information.

    • Good information isn't much better for hypercondria than bad. For a start, its very difficult for someone who isn't used to looking at the information format to be sure how to interpret it. I've dealt with people who are afraid they have $condition, because they show most of the symptoms, but simply neglect to look at the symptoms that don't fit, or aren't aware that 9 of the ten symptoms (which they have) don't mean a thing because the tenth is critical. Subjective ones, like major pain, or stiff neck (

      • Some dodgy ads prey on that. "Have you got back pain? A mild cough? A itchy toe? Well you need !"

    • Using medical information on the web as one's only source is irresponsible; it should be common sense to get a balanced opinion and also to see a real medical professional.

      How does one go about seeking a balanced opinion? By going to other laymen? You must mean by seeking the advice of a trained and certified medical professional period, not "also".

      But not everyone has that option. Even if you do, not everyone has health care.

      We should be glad for the availability of information online (and in libraries).

  • hm (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I've been mis-diagnosed by doctors and found the problem successfully myself (and then had doctors treat). One time it involved cancer, but I can think of at least 2 other times. Not that I'm smarter than doctors or anything like that, but sometimes it does help to study things yourself.

    • Re:hm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rhyder128k (1051042) on Friday November 28, 2008 @02:11PM (#25917797) Homepage

      This was the first thing that leapt to my mind as well.

      Basic scenario: Patient is able to spend six or seven hours carefully searching message boards and the web for something exactly matches their symptoms. In all fairness, patients aren't always brilliant at specifying their symptoms clearly and exhaustively. Next day, patient goes to see doctor and points out something that the doctor has missed. Doctor thinks, "Who the hell does this guy think he is? I'm God!". Patient gets a telling off for causing a nasty case of cognitive dissonance in the mind of the doctor.

      I think that things are perhaps worse in the UK as we have a state healthcare system. As a result, Doctors don't always treat patients with the same respect that they would a paying customer. I've had some private dental care, and the attitude was like night and day. In contrast, a doctor once told me off for having read the the little leaflet that came inside a packet of pills.

      • The differences between a state-run and HMO-sponsored healthcare system aren't terribly different, apart from the massive administrative overhead associated with the HMO-based system.

        I've been through both types of systems, and doctors tend to have varying levels of indifference in both types of system.

        People love to complain about the NHS, though at the end of the day, the statistics seem to show that they're doing a pretty good job.

        (Dental care, IMO, on the other hand, is a completely different game, for

    • Amen. American hospitals drive their doctors to get as many patients in and out the door as quickly as possible. Hospitals then try their hardest to stop competition from other hospitals by hiding numbers like infection rates and how successfully they treat various diseases.

      It's a broken market, whereby patients (customers) cannot judge hospitals or doctors. Few decision metrics are available. This is libertarianism at its worst. I'm pro competition, and in this case, it means we need to mandate the
    • by Elledan (582730)
      I've been misdiagnosed a few times by now as well for the condition I'm suffering from. My own research made me believe I knew in which direction to search, but with no apparent interest from doctors to diagnose me while also running into more practical concerns (no surgeon is going to cut open a healthy patient...). If I am to believe the last doctor I talked with then I'm not even sure how to diagnose myself, nor did she have a clue. I'm still waiting for her to get back to me on it with something useful.
  • OK, so now we have a word that is the same as another, with a slightly different definition. Instead of people freaking out about imagined illnesses, now they have the ability to get online and find other illnesses that they didn't realize they had... Fantastic. Irritating doesn't even begin to describe my feeling about this one.
    • What about Comfrey?

      Can you eat Comfrey pancake or shouldn't you?

      • by mrbcs (737902) *
        Comfrey? How do you kill that shit? I have it growing everywhere!!!!
        • Yes, you cannot get rid off Comfrey. But some people including me find it very delicious.

          Some web sources say Comfrey is dangerous for your liver. And I don't know if it is the pharma mafia or real.

          You take comfrey leaves and make a kind of pankake and roast them. It is delicious but I have no idea if I should do. Without the web I would have continued.

    • by vux984 (928602)

      Irritating doesn't even begin to describe my feeling about this one.

      Don't worry, they have a cream for that... look for it online. ;)

  • Oh No... (Score:5, Funny)

    by routerl (976394) on Friday November 28, 2008 @01:49PM (#25917633)
    This means I've just found another condition I might have by browsing the internet! Damn you cyberchondria!
  • I would disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday November 28, 2008 @01:50PM (#25917637) Journal

    The researchers note that Web searchers' propensity to jump to awful conclusions is "basic human behavior that has been noted by research scientists for decades."

    In my anecdotal and limited experience, I've noticed that it is certain personality types which have a "propensity to jump to awful conclusions".

    They basically resort to hysterics over things they cannot control, even before they know how [thing] is going to end.

  • Several years ago, I noticed something about a patch of skin. I looked it up and asked the dermatologist about it. He, of course, ignored me and the question.

    Three diagnoses, two prescriptions and 7 office visits later, he consulted with several doctors around the country.

    I had been right from the get go, though he would never admit it.

    • by Crias (1388217)
      Dude, RTFA.

      Paragraph 1:

      If that headache plaguing you this morning led you first to a Web search and then to the conclusion that you must have a brain tumor, you may instead be suffering from cyberchondria.

      Cyberchondria is when you search the net for your symptoms and suddenly start panicking because you think you might have something bad.

      This suggests the opposite of your post - you should consult medical professionals.

      Dermatology is a completely different beast, because many skin conditions have no real tests. The creed of dermatology is "if the area is moist, make it dry, and if it's dry, make it moist". I've had a problem for 2 years now undiagnosed. *shrugs*

  • by rodrigoandrade (713371) on Friday November 28, 2008 @01:50PM (#25917645)
    I haven't RTFA, per usual, but I'm sure the study concludes that it's a great idea to search the Internet to see if you have a terrible disease using Windows Live Search.
    • Re:Conclusion... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by westlake (615356) on Friday November 28, 2008 @02:31PM (#25917961)
      I'm sure the study concludes that it's a great idea to search the Internet to see if you have a terrible disease using Windows Live Search.

      What the study actually found, of course, is that you are far better off using a search engine that links only to known-good sources for public health information.

      The AMA. The American Cancer Society. The Center for Disease Control.

      The geek shouldn't shrug off studies like these because they expose a serious problem with a general search engine like Google - and a search service that has perhaps become too much a marketing machine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I haven't RTFA, per usual, but I'm sure the study concludes that it's a great idea to search the Internet to see if you have a terrible disease using Windows Live Search.

      Hello there! I see you're looking for information on WHY DOES IT BURN WHEN I PEE?

      Would you like to:
      ( ) Schedule a visit to Planned Parenthood
      ( ) Swear you'll use a condom from now on
      ( ) Order some monostat
      ( ) Call mom while crying on the toilet.

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Provided you put "site:nhs.uk" or something similar at the end of your search query.

      You can do this in Google as well.

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      Of course using Windows Live Search is a terrible disease. Duh.

    • [abusing an oft-quoted joke]

      Some people, having a terrible disease, say: "I know! I'll look it up using Live Search!"

      Now they have two terrible diseases.

  • by ashdamle (1419349) on Friday November 28, 2008 @01:50PM (#25917649)
    We (myself and a couple of doctors) started MEDgle (http://www.medgle.com/ [medgle.com] ) specifically to help people understand the possible causes for their symptoms. Hopefully this will help combat cyberchondria by giving people reasonable causes, not the most dire. And as you stated, people should always talk with their health care provider. Any feedback is much appreciated. Cheers
    • What's with the forced login for "more/uncommon symptoms"? Clearly you 'doctors' are trying to experiment on me!
    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday November 28, 2008 @02:09PM (#25917787)

      I seem to recall sometime in about 2000 there was a report that a computer program had been designed that asked a series of questions and provided a most likely diagnosis. It was apparently better at doing this than the doctors were by a small margin. The project was axed though after a huge outcry that it would put doctors out of business, couldn't be trusted because it couldn't be medically licensed, liability issues, etc. Has anything changed since then?

      It seems like a good idea -- people punching in their symptoms and getting an answer about whether to take a trip to the ER (perhaps printout in hand) or not, and with people spending hours in waiting rooms only to find out they have the common cold or just bad menstral cramps, doesn't it make sense to give people the option of entering all their data into a computer first? If we tied such a database into the admissions system, they could show up with all their insurance, contact information, and symptoms list already available for the triage nurse. I'm not advocating taking a person and their clinical experience out of the loop, but certainly there's ways to use medical data to do better targeting. I've felt the same way about pharmaceuticals and wondered why there isn't a database to track adverse reactions to drugs on a per-patient basis... If someone's tried three different anti-depressants and had a poor response to them, maybe that particular reaction projects that Drug X would be 60% more likely to be effective than Drug Y. As it is, it's often drug rhoulette(sp?) until you find one that works.

       

      • I seem to recall sometime in about 2000 there was a report that a computer program had been designed that asked a series of questions and provided a most likely diagnosis.

        You might want to look at the table on page 10: "Symptoms, Explanations, and Serious Illnesses." The "virtual doctor" has been around like forever - page through almost any back issue of Byte or Creative Computing - if you want to try a sampling FreeMD [freemd.com] is a good a place as any to begin. Personally I prefer my HMO's help line nurses, who

      • by Keychain (1249466)
        Main problem here (and with the OP initiative) is that most people (me included) won't be able to exactly point out their symptoms clearly enough for a machine to be able to diagnoses their illness correctly
      • Sounds like you're thinking of Larry Weed's Problem-Knowledge couplers [pkc.com]. These have been around for literally decades - they were the next big thing when I was in medical school (early 80's). Apparently it hasn't died yet, but every time I look at them, I find that they are 1) slow 2) SLOW 3) tend to look for unusual / uncommon diseases and 4) not any better than hitting a textbook (or these days Google).

        The problem with computers sorting on symptoms is that symptoms are common, symptoms overlap disease
        • by Znork (31774)

          The problem with computers sorting on symptoms is that symptoms are common, symptoms overlap diseases and there are a lot of unconscious filters that medical professionals use to get the diagnosis

          It's not so much a problem with computers as a problem with diseases. Remember, the unconscious filters that medical professionals use to get the diagnosis also often get the wrong diagnosis.

          The problem space of accurately matching symptoms with diseases is _hard_, and it's also a problem which is almost entirely u

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      Okay...feedback: I already hate the fact that I have to log in to select more than one symptom. This is going to turn off a lot of people who are embarrassed over whatever condition.

      I do like the organ chart -- clever and unique.

      I was amused to see this ad copy below the organ chart

      Facebook Borne Disease

      Wow, so you CAN catch diseases thru social networking! ;)

      • by snl2587 (1177409)

        feedback: I already hate the fact that I have to log in to select more than one symptom.

        Didn't seem to be a problem for me, although I did notice that less common symptoms did require a logon. Not sure why, though.

        I did notice that this was considerably better than WebMD at identifying that the symptoms for my recent stomach flu were not, in fact, indicative of cancer, but I still wish someone could make a program that described symptoms as a patient would describe them without printing out a list of preposterous diagnoses in the process.

        • by ashdamle (1419349)
          snl2587, thanks for the feedback as well.

          All the symptoms are available through textbox with auto-complete. We restricted the symptoms shown in the visual section because "some" folks where just coping and using it elsewhere. It was the only solution we could come up with to stop mass copying of the difficult to find data that we have put together.

          Any ideas on how we can protect our IP without requiring the login for all the info would be much appreciated.

          We are definitely trying to describe the s
          • by snl2587 (1177409)

            All the symptoms are available through textbox with auto-complete. We restricted the symptoms shown in the visual section because "some" folks where just coping and using it elsewhere. It was the only solution we could come up with to stop mass copying of the difficult to find data that we have put together.

            Ah, ok. That makes sense.

            Might I suggest that this is stated somehow at the time, like a "why?" button next to the logon link? It could pop out a box explaining something about how the database is exhaustively researched...the phrasing would need work, but for the tech-minded the reason for locking down the data would be immediately evident and for everyone else, well, they either won't care or they will be impressed and more inclined to use the service.

            An additional suggestion: clicking on the links with s

      • by ashdamle (1419349)
        Reziac... thanks for the feedback. You can enter up to 4 symptoms (no-login required), you just need to enter the first one to get the second box to appear. (Any suggestions to make this clearer?) Glad the visual search was interesting... The game basically presents lots of different scenarios allowing people to test their medical diagnostic skills. :)
        • by Reziac (43301) *

          I saw the second box but it was greyed out (or rather, the box I'd apparently want to use next was). Seriously non-obvious. :)

          I think I'd drop the upfront reference to login-required and not bring it up at all unless the user wanted to go beyond the four allowed query terms, then make it come up instead of a 5th search term.

          Do you have a reason for wanting the login? I had an AC reply who also complained about it, and about logins in general where there's no real reason for it.

    • by Twinbee (767046)
      Great stuff. I thought of this kind of thing a while back, but it's brilliant to see people putting this thing into practise, especially with this level of automation.
    • by xTantrum (919048)

      I don't see any problem with individuals searching for answers for possible ailments and illnesses, as long as they employ critical thinking and don't jump to conclusions without facts. I often use the web to find info about what could be wrong with me and then on seeing a doctor usually surprise him/her with the little knowledge that i gained by individual research. Obviously the buck still stops at the doctors but informing myself helps me to make a better decision and not just swallow what the doctor say

  • by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Friday November 28, 2008 @01:58PM (#25917711) Journal
    "...it hurts when I go like this!
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday November 28, 2008 @01:59PM (#25917715)

    The web hasn't made this behavior any less prevalent, it's just made it easier for people to fall into the trap. There are two camps in the medical community right now; Those who think that medical knowledge should be contained to those who are properly licensed, and those who think knowledge is power (but hope people use it responsibly). If this sounds familiar, it should -- our community (the technical and engineering disciplines) have had the same debate. We've all had our share of "technocondriacs" -- people who insist there's something wrong with their computer, even when we've scanned it with everything, reloaded the operating system, and defragged the drive five times... They somehow think it should run faster, or that there's a button somewhere to do X when there's never been X in that application. And no sniggering about literacy or operating system of choice here -- it happens to users of all backgrounds.

    One example is pharmaceutical advertisements. Five years ago, using the words "Erectile Dysfunction" would have left people giggling on the floor. These days, it gets an eye roll and a remembrance of those commercials. It's undisputed some people have a problem rising to the challenge and may not have known there was a treatment for it, but the unintended consequence is a lot of people are taking medications that aren't medically necessary because of self-esteem problems, obesity, or a plethora of other causes that can be treated without a pill. Which of course leads to the "Solve everything with a pill" attitude that our society seems to enjoy, but that's a topic for another day.

    I have to side with the idea that knowledge should be out there. My friend just got a horrible ear infection that resulted in extreme pain and puss coming out of her ear because the doctor misdiagnosed it as "swimmers ear"; She needed strong antibiotics and he prescribed drops, and so for three days she's been laid out on a couch screaming and crying every few minutes. She only went back to ER after researching out what else it could be besides swimmers ear, and an ear infection turned up -- there was no difference in the symptoms list, except the pain level. And her mother is a registered nurse who works in a hospital -- she didn't find anything wrong with the diagnosis either. My friend's access to the internet may very well have just saved her some hearing loss this week!

    So which side is right? Both. And neither.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      My friend just got a horrible ear infection that resulted in extreme pain and puss coming out of her ear because the doctor misdiagnosed it as "swimmers ear"

      I imagine that having a cat crawl out of one's ear would be quite painful.

      • I imagine that having a cat crawl out of one's ear would be quite painful.

        Yes, however that'ss not anatomically possssible. A more likely explanation might be a ssticky key.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lxs (131946)

      but the unintended consequence is a lot of people are taking medications that aren't medically necessary

      What makes you think this is an unintended consequence?

      • What makes you think this is an unintended consequence?

        Good point. :( Perhaps "negative consequence" would have been better phrasing.

    • Very true. Another good example of this is the "disease of the day" report in various magazine shows. I know this is an anecdote but my dad would see these things and then turn around and thing he had them. Hell look at mad cow disease. That's been diagnosed in the US a grand total of 3 times and never from actually eating US beef yet loads of people actually worry about catching it from eating too much beef. (Actually from what I remember it's never been diagnosed from people eating American, Australian, o
  • There's a similar phenomenon in psychology when students take their first abnormal psychology class. If you don't want to be (half-jokingly) diagnosed with any number of mental disorders, you want to temporarily avoid a psychology student who has just started to read the DSM!
  • Zebra syndrome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by st0rmshad0w (412661) on Friday November 28, 2008 @02:06PM (#25917753)

    Yeah this sounds like classic zebra syndrome.

    Zebra Syndrome is immediately jumping to the rare possibility when given a piece of evidence. When you hear hoofbeats you should think "horses", not zebras.

    Someone gets an ache or pain and hops on Google and suddenly they have Schistosomiasis or something else equally as absurd.

    • by Kayden (1406747)
      Should you still be thinking horses if you're in the bull pen?
  • Personal experience (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Friday November 28, 2008 @02:08PM (#25917779)

    A few years ago, I woke up with a terrible pain in my lower abdomen. I did a quick Google search and matched all the symptoms of appendicitis, so I got my parents to take me to the hospital.

    The first doctor also thought that I had it and scheduled me for surgery. However, the surgeon said to wait for a while.

    Turns out that it wasn't appendicitis and that I just had to fart really, really, really badly. Of course, 24hrs in the hospital to figure it out probably makes it the most expensive fart ever -- something around $5,000.

    So yes, this "cyberchondria" really is a problem.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BorgDrone (64343)

      The first doctor also thought that I had it and scheduled me for surgery. However, the surgeon said to wait for a while.

      That's the thing that bugs me the most about the whole medical pseudo-science. They just try something and hope it works, they never actually try to get to the bottom of it and find the real problem. High blood pressure ? Here, have some medication that artificially lowers it. They don't bother to find out WHY it's high and correct that.

      It's a good thing these guys didn't go into the progr

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      Honestly, is sounds like everything worked properly. Just because you have to wait a few minutes at a red light when there are no cars coming in the other direction doesn't mean you give up on stop lights. If your symptoms looked like appendicitis, then you should have been at the hospital. The surgeon didn't think it looked EXACTLY like appendicitis, so he said to wait, but kept you close at hand in case he was wrong, yet didn't do a surgery that was unnecessary.

      What would have been a problem outcome
  • So I looked up "Porn Addict" on WebMD, you know - to do research for a paper I'm writing - and got to a page there which included a brief Flash video of me behind my keyboard, typing in "Porn Addict" on WebMD. Jesus, this technology is AMAZING.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday November 28, 2008 @02:18PM (#25917853)
    The condition is common in med students who seem to get sick with whatever conditions they've recently studied.
  • Because doctors know that people can often search for stuff like this on the internet, many medical professionals will IMMEDIATE ignore any and all such comments or queries. I've come to three doctors now with information I found in medical journals and on the internet which match my symptoms (migraines, blackouts, audio and visual hallucinations, seizures, fugue states... basically, every facet of certain kinds of epilepsy). All three doctors have told me, in various ways, that since I found this information myself, it's clearly NOT what I have.

    I continue to have blackouts and seizures, and continue to go untreated, because unless I have a seizure in my doctor's office, he'll just assume I'm trying to get medication out of him.

    I call it "Smug Superioritis".
    • by ptbarnett (159784)

      I call it "Smug Superioritis".

      I suggest you find another doctor.

      After years of taking penicillin-based antibiotics with no problems, I developed an allergy to it -- probably because of a stronger than normal dose. However, my reaction was a rare one. So, when I complained to the doctor, he didn't have an immediate answer. It got so bad I couldn't sleep, so on a hunch I got up in the middle of the night and pulled up the full disclosure for the medication from the manufacturer. I had to look up the meaning of some of the terms us

      • I have gone to the hospital, but they best they can tell me is "inconclusive". I might have it, I might not, and unless I spend something like 72 hours hooked up to an EEG and deprived of sleep, they won't be able to tell for sure, and even if they get a positive hit, the medication sounds worse than the condition.

        I just want to be taken seriously by the people who have made it their life's mission to make sick people feel better. *grumble* Still, these are the same doctors who said for six months tha
        • by Kayden (1406747)
          =\ I can identify. When I was young every time I went to the doctor I'd complain of chest pains and headaches and painful breathing. The answer was always, "Hmm... keep an eye on it and let me know if it continues or gets worse." It went on like that for YEARS because I go to the doctor like once a year... The pain stopped and my headaches were written off as computer strain. I went to a chiropractor several years later for a sore shoulder and he took some xrays. I have scoliosis and all the pain I ha
        • I have gone to the hospital, but they best they can tell me is "inconclusive". I might have it, I might not, and unless I spend something like 72 hours hooked up to an EEG and deprived of sleep, they won't be able to tell for sure, and even if they get a positive hit, the medication sounds worse than the condition.

          As someone who is epileptic, has spent a good deal of time reading up on it, and has spent a good deal of time talking to his neurologist about it, I'm very serious when I say to go find a new neurologist, preferably yesterday. You might be right about what's happening. You might not. Either way, though, you deserve to be taken seriously, have it properly looked into, and given a straight answer about it.

          A surprisingly large number of people who do end up getting diagnosed and treated for seizure disorde

  • That's the general term I'm used to for medical, psychological and similar self-induced symptom anxiety. TFA is just a blatant attempt to claim a piece of it for themselves, when the cause is the same whether it's internet based or Babylonian cuniform on clay tablets.

    The source of the discomfort is plain old cognitive dissonance. Some people are more prone to it than others, for a number of reasons. They're the same ones who intend to relieve the anxiety by learning what they can about why they don't feel w

  • critical thinking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Friday November 28, 2008 @02:29PM (#25917939) Homepage

    Most people -- including, I suspect, doctors -- have trouble with critical thinking, and one area that tends to be a particular problem is critical thinking about probabilities and cause-and-effect relationships. I'm a community college professor in California, and recently there was a big state-wide earthquake drill, which they made into sort of a media event. The day before, I heard my students before class talking about it. "There's gonna be an earthquake tomorrow at 10 o'clock." "Huh? They can't predict earthquakes, can they?" "I heard it on the news." "Really?" Most people just accept information without thinking about it critically. Obama won't say the pledge of allegiance? Oh, okay.

    I don't think medicine is different from any other field where people gather their own information, and I don't think health-care professionals are always much better than anyone else at this kind of thing. For example, I had a certain foot problem, and my G.P. prescribed physical therapy. One of the things the physical therapist did was to use ultrasound on my feet (therapeutic ultrasound, not ultrasound for imaging). I checked on the web later, and it turned out that the only controlled scientific studies on the topic had shown that ultrasound had no effect on my condition.

    I think it's telling that "evidence-based medicine" is a term that even needs to be used. If it's not evidence-based, what's it based on? Wishful thinking? Voodoo? The placebo effect?

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      That ultrasound treatment is typical money grabbing by the medical-industrial complex. I struggled with back pain for years, going from doctor to doctor and getting everything from massages to injections, including ultrasound and chiropractics. Nothing helped, except for short term relief.
      After realizing that doctors don't know more about my body than I do myself and that they have their wallets' well being in mind at least as much as mine, I went out and did my own research.
      The solution? A gym membership a

  • on a person thinking they have a disease, syndrome or condition - or talent or acumen for that matter - based on bits of random information collected without the benefit of knowledge or training. There. Everyone now owes me money.
  • The Singularity (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Does anyone else find it mildly encouraging that the Internet is bringing the general population up to the level of second-year medical students?

    Ray Kurzweil is smiling somewhere.

    • Actually, I find this very disturbing. Med students are in class for learning this stuff, and being objective about diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Having Joe Six Pack figure out he has some acute disease that affects less that 1 percent of the world's population after reading about it online bothers me. Said person then shows up at the doctor's office with his "evidence" of the disease makes me wait an extra hour at the office for a simple check up.
  • My Mom has done the same thing with a medical encyclopedia for years. She looks things up and decides she has them.
  • They should be after the NXE bugs, not chasing baskets full of shit like this. http://forums.xbox.com/24355681/ShowPost.aspx [xbox.com]
  • by syousef (465911) on Friday November 28, 2008 @03:27PM (#25918349) Journal

    If you conclude the worst, and you have the disease you might go and seek medical help sooner. If it turns out you're right, you might catch your disease in time to have something about it.

    The other thing to note is that good medical care, even in the "developed" world is increasingly becoming hard to find. Doctors do long hours and are under immense pressure and the best and brightest sren't always attracted to the field, and when they are they often feel entitled to gouge the people they treat while providing sub-standard care. That's not to say there are no good doctors, just that there are surprisingly few. A good doctor will save you but a bad one will get you killed.

    I've had friends and loved ones prescribed medications that almost killed them (and had dosage increased by 3 separate doctors in one case, as one of the contraindications got worse and worse!). I've seen routine things completely misdiagnosed. I've seen a woman with maternal asthma barely able to breath and hacking up huge amounts of flem dismissed as a fat hypochondriac. I've seen shoulder dislocations misdiagnosed as swelling - something that commonly happens resulting in long term should instability. (Don't believe me? Check out the literature on posterior shoulder dislocations and include "avoiding a missed diagnosis" in your search).

    I've also been told I should have my ankle fused by 2 specialists. According to them I should no longer be walking, but when I looked up the long term prospects - after 3 months off my feet completely only a 70-80% chance of success (in which case repeat once then chop off foot) I can expect a couple of years recovering and about 6-7 years before severe ankle arthritis hits. I have gone for more conservative treatment - staying off the ankle - and while there is still pain I walk a couple of kilometers a day and haven't had to sacrifice my career. I may still have to have the surgery but these surgeons didn't even suggest TRYING anything conservative.

    IF you use the internet appropriately instead of looking up ever sneeze and cough and assumign you are dying, the net is a wonderful thing. Anyone who says otherwise has a vested interest in keeping the information from you.

  • ...if you actually do have something badly wrong with you, online resources can be invaluable. They're particularly good when you have something wrong that's rare enough that your doctors don't know what it is, presents a variety of very common symptoms, and you happen to be reasonably intelligent. Online resources can be incredibly valuable in getting an idea of what might be wrong with you, at least to know where to start looking.

    In my case, I had a chronic disease for eight years that doctors proved c

  • It's psychosomatic? That means I better take some antibiotics, right?
  • A friend's vet told her her beloved cat needed to be killed because it had "advanced cancer." So she spent days on the Net searching on her cat's symptoms. She came across the suggestion that it could be a gluten allergy, fed the cat a gluten-free diet, and now six months later the cat is entirely healthy.

    So ... go to the doctor first if it seems serious. But you're a damn fool if you accept a diagnosis or treatment without first doing your own research. Misdiagnosis - by doctors - is one of the leading cau

  • I think I have Cyberchondria...
  • Last year, I woke up and found that my eye was full of floaters and I was seeing flashes. I quickly checked for those symptoms using Google which led me to a page on Wikipedia describing the symptoms of a detached retina. I called my wife down from upstairs and told her we were going to the hospital. When a doctor checked my eye, I had indeed suffered a posterior vitreous detachment which had ripped several chunks of retina away. I was immediately treated with a laser and the doctor told me that if I ha

  • The Web information is just a tool. I dont' find the subject of misuse or missapplication very interesting. What would be interesting is accuracy and locations.

    Online searching of medical information has been very good for me, health wise, and getting healthy wise.

    You ever develop a propensity for syncope. Followed by waking up surrounded by passwerbys askign if your okay. ... you'll know what I mean.

    Just like in Computer 101 -- GIGO. Usagi yo.

  • Did anyone else click the RSS link thinking the article would be about cybernetic mitochondria? That would have been much cooler.
  • by Jerome K. Jerome, published 1889 (yes, I *did* say the 19th century). Somewhere in the first ten pages, Our Narrator goes to a library, and finds a medical textbook to find if he has a certain disease, and flips it open. By the time he's done, he thinks he has everything in the book (other than housemaid's knees).

    Read the book. The first half is hysterical, and the last half a lyrical paen to the Themes Valley of England.

    Yes, the Monty Python crew made a movie of it, but the book's still better.

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