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Doctors Warn: Beware Of ‘Cyberchondria’

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(credit: CBS) Natalie Nyhus
Natalie Nyhus joined the WCCO-TV team in January of 2011. She repor...
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MINNNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When something doesn’t feel right, many go online to search for information on what their symptoms might mean.

But some patients are over diagnosing themselves, and doctors are diagnosing this phenomenon as its own condition: “Cyberchondria.”

Cyberchondria is a growing trend in which a person spends hours online reading health websites, self-diagnosing, and stressing out.

According to Dr. Chris Balgobin of Fairview Clinics, one of the hardest parts of his job is to convince people that they don’t have what they think.

“You need a healthcare professional to break it down for you — that’s what we are trained to do,” Balgobin said. “Yes, there are delayed diagnoses. Finding that right provider that will listen to you and help engage you in an active discussion about your health. A physical exam is a huge part of this, too.”

According to Dr. Balgobin, some people spend so much time reading about symptoms that they report having those symptoms when they don’t actually exist.

“Their mind is a powerful thing. It controls everything in the body: nervous system, mood, thyroid. When your mind is overly stressed about what you have, you start symptomizing where you create your symptoms. You start feeling this pain. ‘Wow, it’s tingly over here. I must have a stroke.’ And you go down this road of anxiety building,” Balgobin said.

If you want to check on your symptoms before seeing your doctor, Balgobin says make sure you look at credible websites, such as Fairview.org, Mayoclinic.org or webMD.com. But you should never use the internet as your only opinion or second opinion.

If symptoms persist, Balgobin says, you should see your doctor. Though your symptoms may match something you read online, Balgobin says that symptoms need interpretation. Bring that information to your appointment. Doctors have context and a background knowledge to properly diagnose.

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