The author of the article discusses the situation when an individual who does not feel well decides to check up the symptoms online (on websites such as MedicineNet or WebMD). This usually ends up with an exaggerated self-diagnosis where a simple headache may become the premise for brain cancer. This kind of anxiety in terms of the individual’s health is called cyberchondria. The author of the article states how popular it became lately and how people now prefer to visit different health websites instead of visiting the doctor’s office. Britt Peterson focuses on the point that more than half of the American population are accustomed to using the Internet. This results in growing anxiety among Americans and negatively affects their treatment routines.
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Nonetheless, the author of the article questions the relevance of the concern. She believes that the information that is found on the Web should not be that convincing. One of the studies reviewed by Peterson identified the presence of an illogical propensity in the functioning processes inside the cyberchondriacs’ brains. According to the article author’s theory, these individuals are seriously impacted by the thought that the first symptoms are rather common (including fatigue, headache, and similar symptoms that can be self-diagnosed in almost every individual). This leads cyberchondriacs to the conclusion that they have other symptoms, too. The author of the article compares this predisposition to the outlooks of the majority of gamblers who believe that several instances of their luck signify a streak of lucky consequences and this tendency will continue further regardless of any given factors.
In order to test the concept of cyberchondria, the researchers conducted an experiment. They invented an imaginary type of cancer and put together several lists of symptoms. They grouped them in accordance with their gravity (for instance, shortness of breath and weakness in one group and throat/ neck pain in the other). The third array of symptoms mixed all the previous symptoms together in a random order. When asked to check their symptoms, the individuals who were given the lists with low-gravity symptoms stated that they felt like they were more inclined to having cancer than those who were given the lists with mixed symptoms.
The author of the article then discusses the findings of the experiment. She believes that the outcomes of this research project overtly demonstrate that human brain is keen on finding various patterns in an unconscious manner. Moreover, Peterson states that this tendency makes the individuals ignore the basic logic and they start visualizing the probabilities that have no connection with the real-world state of affairs. The author of the article claims that instead of applying logic, cyberchondriacs start believing that their symptoms are grave even if they are not. The situation gets even worse due to the fact that if these individuals find an imaginary pattern, they will believe that they have other symptoms from the list, too.
The author of the research and Britt Peterson expect the websites to use the results of the experiment to reduce the anxiety rates among the patients and other individuals. According to the author of the article, one of the solutions may be not listing the majority of common symptoms in one place. Nevertheless, an increased level of anxiety may be useful as the individuals start paying more attention to their health. In any case, the ultimate diagnosis should be made by a medical professional on the basis of existing evidence and not self-projected symptoms falsely identified by the patient’s brain.