Volume 1  Number 8  September 2022

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the online magazine of 
The National Library of Patient Rights & Advocacy

what you will find inside the September issue ...

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by Teri Halliwell

A Closer Look at Dr. Google

and Cyberchondria

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Meet Our New Managing Editor
Bri Allison

Our Monthly Dose for September is to announce the appointment of Bri Allison as the new Managing Editor of Today's Patient. Watch for her monthly column in this space beginning in October.

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Welcome to the September issue

Welcome to this month's issue of the new online magazine of The Power of the Patient Project: The National Library of Patient Rights and Advocacy. We appreciate all of the positive feedback we have received on all of our issues this year, and hope that you enjoy the stories our editorial team of outstanding healthcare journalists have written for this issue. We welcome your comments and suggestions. We hope that you will enjoy the content of this month's magazine and come back every month to see what is new and relevant to today's patient.

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A Closer Look at Dr. Google and Cyberchondria

by Teri Halliwell

It can be a persisting rush on your skin, feeling your pulse when you lay down to bed or a sensation that’s something is stuck in your throat. In an age where almost everything is at your fingertips, it is difficult not to fall down the rabbit hole of googling your symptoms. Self-diagnosing can lead to wrong self-treatment or wrong medication, worsening the condition and losing time for proper care. According to research published on the National Library of Medicine, the plethora of information found on the Internet can be misinterpreted, overwhelming and cause “health anxiety”, a real mental disorder causing excessive worrying that you are sick.

What is Cyberchondria

In classical medicine, hypochondria denoted the soft part of the body below the ribs. This region was identified as the source of black bile that, when excessive, was believed to cause diseases of the mind and body. Dr. Melinda Moree, a PhD in medical microbiology from the University of Maryland and Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, notes that there is a fine line separating hypochondriacs from sufferers of real diseases. He relates, "In the 19th century. many sufferers of multiple sclerosis were regarded as hypochondriacal. Whether any cases of hypochondriasis will be redefined in the future with changes in diagnostic practice is uncertain”.

Adding Dr. Google to the menu takes medical anxiety to a whole other level. The term “cyberchondria” not only relates to searching online medical symptoms and convincing yourself that you are gravely ill, but also the fear and anxiety people feel over what kind of information they will retrieve from the Internet.

Even though you cannot resist the urge to google, filtering the information can assist to better understanding medical content. Here's what I recommend:

  • Take everything with a grain of salt and never self-diagnose. Although the symptoms for a particular disease, such as sore throat when having the common cold, are experienced by the majority of people, each body is unique with its own identity. Doctors are often detectives, drawing a map of the symptoms you describe, test and examine before reaching a diagnosis. Think of it this way; if diagnosing a disease was that easy simply by doing an Internet search, there would be no need for medical degrees or licensed practitioners and facilities.

  • Make sure the article is reviewed by a medical doctor. Articles often indicate who wrote the medical content and who reviewed it, including their credentials. Many health publishers now have experts who ensure content accuracy. 

  • Go to Scientific Journals, like The Journal of Neuroscience or The American Journal of Psychiatry, and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) where you can find firsthand accounts on events, original research, breakthrough news and thorough approach to a medical condition; not just referring to the symptoms, but putting the symptoms into context.

  •  Your doctor is your number one contact. Instead of going down the slippery slope, you can either talk to a doctor or a therapist online if you feel like your emotional or physical health is getting the best of you. 

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Teri Halliwell earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism from The American College of Greece, and her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of San Francisco. Teri is an inventive storyteller with a passion for moving audiences to action through her writing. She is a member of the International Association of Professional Writers and Editors, and is a popular host with The Power of the Patient Project. She is also a member of the editorial staff of our online magazine, Today's Patient, where she writes insightful articles on patient-centered health and wellness.

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