What the hell is wrong with you? Self-diagnosis and the Internet give rise to Cyberchondria.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought, “Oh my God, what the hell is wrong with me?”

Don’t worry because if you have, you’re not alone. In fact, most people these days are convinced that something isn’t quite right when it comes to their health, vitality, or physical condition.

It’s a strange paradox, as, in some ways, human beings are as healthy as they’ve ever been.

We now have the longest lifespan in the history of the species, diseases like polio and TB that used to frequently kill people have been completely eradicated, access to medicine and technology are almost universal, and we know more about health, fitness, and nutrition than ever before.

And yet, too often, we don't feel so hot.

Whether it's a nasty flu, back and neck pain, or the general malaise from working too much with too little downtime, we are more focused on what's WRONG with our health than ever before.

We’re perplexed why we feel slightly off, racking our brains as to the reason.

Do you think people in medieval times or during Great Depression felt A.O.K. on a daily basis?

We also vastly overmedicate, whether it’s prescription painkillers (a HUGE problem in the U.S.), over-the-counter medications for every sneeze and sniffle, or even vitamins, skin crèmes, inhalers, energy drinks, etc.

There are also insidious environmental forces at work that we CAN’T see, causing asthma, allergies, food toxins caused by pesticides that cause cancer, diabetes and obesity-related illnesses from all of the sugar we’re ingesting, and even Autism at record rates.

Our mental health may be dragging down our physical wellbeing at unprecedented rates, too. Consider that depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and other emotional or mental conditions can have profound physical effects, too.

A lack of physical activity is also a key culprit in our malaise. We stay indoors, stare at electronic screens, move less, walk less, and are less active for longer periods. We even contort our spines into strange positions for hours every day, giving rise to new conditions like Text Neck.

Sure, we’re living longer, but human beings are being poisoned at the same time, whether by choice, force, or environmental conditions.

Likewise, we also have more time, knowledge, and opportunity to analyze ourselves under a magnifying glass from all angles.

However, all of this introspection and self-focus isn’t necessarily healthy, as it’s given rise to a new classification of mental health (or lack thereof): health anxiety.

"Everyone is going to be anxious about their health from time to time," says Thomas Fergus, a clinical psychologist at Baylor University. "What makes it a problem is the frequency, the intensity and the severity."

Even worse, we have a universe of information cataloged at our fingertips with Google and other search engines. That tsunami of information, while a huge benefit most of the time, is downright detrimental if we don’t have the proper training and objectivity to filter it.

For instance, aside from Google, sites like WebMD.com have exploded in popularity, becoming what’s been described as the “McDonalds drive-through of medical diagnosis.”

A Pew Research Center survey found that 59 percent of Americans have had searched online for health information in the past year. Furthermore, 35 percent have turned to the Internet to specifically diagnose a medical condition, and perhaps 60 to 80 percent of the population search online for health information at some point.

However, there’s a profound downside to WebMD and others. A 2016 study found that when people go online to check symptoms they're suffering, the websites diagnosis their condition (or lack thereof) correctly only 34 percent of the time, compared to a 72 percent correct diagnosis rate if they went to a doctor.

"For hypochondriacs, the Internet has absolutely changed things for the worse," says Brian Fallon, MD, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University.

In fact, the medical community doesn’t even call it “hypochondria” anymore. In 2013, psychologists struck it from their lexicon, citing too many negative connotations the term brought. So, two terms replaced it (such as in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders): somatic symptom disorder or illness anxiety disorder.

In fact, I was blown away to learn that healthy anxiety (including illness anxiety disorder) is the fastest growing emotional or mental health condition around the world.

The prevalence of internet users who go online to search and diagnosis their health problems has even earned its own unique name from researchers, “cyberchondria.”

Add the barrage of infomercials, which will scare you into thinking that your upset stomach, headache, and dry nasal passages are, in fact, Ebola, West Nile virus, or a rare form of malaria, and people are positively freaked out about their dis-ease.

So, what’s the solution?

Be PROACTIVE instead of reactive when it comes to your health.

Try to shift your concern, energy, and time from focusing on what's WRONG to investing in your

laugh a lot, turn down the stress level, and even try regular chiropractic adjustments and massage as a way to improve your

Likewise, research has shown that a huge boon to staying healthy is the sense of purpose (having a positive reason to get up in the morning) and connection (belonging to a group or something bigger than ourselves).

Pretty soon, you’ll be focused on how GREAT you feel, not the other way around!

***

If you’d like more information about how to improve your health, mental state, and live a fuller, richer life, contact us at EQCoaching.life!

 

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