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Why Some Cyberchondriacs Are Worse Off Than Others

Obsessively searching the Internet for fixes to real or perceived health problems creates more anxiety in those who have a lower tolerance for uncertainty, says a Baylor University researcher.

What’s the Latest Development?

While many people use the Internet to help them research a particular health concern or condition, not everyone benefits from doing so, according to a new Baylor University study published online in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. Study author Thomas Fergus questioned healthy participants on their tolerance for uncertainty as well as how they were affected emotionally by online health searches. The lower a person’s tolerance for uncertainty, the more anxiety they were likely to experience when searching for medical information.

What’s the Big Idea?

“Cyberchondriac” is the term used by researchers to describe people who experience anxiety when obsessively searching the Internet for fixes to real or perceived health issues. For people who already suffer from anxiety issues, doing online medical searches could be especially risky. For some, concern over possibly having a disease can lead to added stress and worry about other areas of life, such as finances and job security. Plus, says Fergus, medical books and doctors tend to give a limited number of possibilities, whereas “online you’re presented with so many.”

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