Cyberchondria - the online counterpart of hypochondria fuelled by searches of websites and forums - is worse for those who fear the unknown, a study suggests.
Scouring the web for medical information, symptoms and diagnoses has the potential to lead to greater levels of uncertainty, researcher Dr Thomas Fergus said.
The assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University in Texas, United States, said that for some, a single search can soon descend into a spiral of self-diagnosis.
"If I'm someone who doesn't like uncertainty, I may become more anxious, search further, monitor my body more, go to the doctor more frequently - and the more you search, the more you consider the possibilities.
"If I see a site about traumatic brain injuries and have difficulties tolerating uncertainty, I might be more likely to worry that's the cause of the bump on my head."
The results showed that people who have difficulty tolerating uncertainty are "especially likely" to experience cyberchondria.
Eight signs you’re a cyberchondriac
- You focus on the worst case scenario.
- You ‘symptom surf’ for vague and generic symptoms.
- Your bookmarks and favourites are all medical searches
- You can’t remember the last time you didn’t Google a symptom.
- You ask Facebook friends about rashes and fevers.
- You don’t know when to stop searching.
- You make your symptoms worse after finally shutting down.
- It’s taking over your life – you spend more time surfing than replying to emails.
How to overcome it?
Simple - unplug your computer and make an appointment with your GP.