May 26, 2007

Cyberchondria and Blogitis--Real Diseases?

Many of us have done it: we notice a numb fingertip, perhaps, or a sudden weird pain where we're not used to having one. So just to reassure ourselves, we go to google and type in "numbness in extremities."

And we end up on a site for multiple sclerosis patients.

Yikes! Do we have multiple sclerosis?

Then a half an hour later the numbness is gone and we forget about the whole thing. But some people aren't nearly so casual about what they find on the web.

"They're called cyberchondriacs and I would say that's the group of hypochondriacs who have a strong, obsessive compulsive focus to their symptoms," according to Dr. Brian Fallon of Columbia University. ABC News recently did a cyberchondria story that Crabby will borrow heavily from, 'cause it's easier that way.

Fallon says ninety percent of hypochondriacs with Internet access become cyberchondriacs.

This makes total sense to Crabby. The internet and its huge volume of health information are very tempting when a strange symptom appears, even for normal people. It's cheap and convenient, as opposed to an actual doctor whom you have to pay and visit in person. So many of us are tempted to diagnose ourselves before investing time and money in a doctor's visit.

But can you imagine what kind of trouble you'd get into with google if you were a hypochondriac to begin with?

"I sort of think of the Internet as the cutting edge of hypochondria. It's almost like a horror movie," said one sufferer's therapist. "You want to look away but you can't, and you just get more and more scared the more you look at it."

Crabby is prepared to believe that Cyberchondria, while too-cutely named, is a real disorder. After all, it's just hypochondria with a cable modem. However, she's not buying "blogitis:" an addiction to blogs. Even though it's clear she's suffering from it herself.

Why not?

Well, even though some health reporters might cover it as though it were real, Crabby can't help but notice who coined the term in the first place. Or who's trying to publicize it. Psychiatrists? Medical researchers? Nope. A Public Relations Consultant about to give a big speech. Hmmm.


  1. Blogitis is when you sign up for every bogus blogger promotion tool like Technorati, then you post a YouTube video of yourself blogging in a skimpy outfit while singing a silly song, then the local newspaper writes an article about what a wack-job you are, then YouTube gets a million hits on your video, then your blog gets thousands of comments per post, then the next wackadoo comes along and everyone forgets you.

    It is what Andy Warhol called everyone's "Fifteen Minutes of Fame" except nowadays it is down to about five minutes because everyone wants to be famous and they are waiting their turn.

  2. I do think it is easy to fall pray to the internet's lure for hypochondriacs. I think even the most sane person can fall prey.
    Besides cybercondria, and blogitis, what do you call the disease of the person who just got on the internet. They forward EVERYTHING, they type in all caps, they fall for every "please forward this e-mail to save blankity-blank" and they feel privileged that a guy in Africa is willing to trust them with 8.5 million dollars. Is it called Gullible-internetitis?

  3. It's one of those "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" situations, I suspect. Ooh! Did out crab catch a public relations consultant with his marketing face on display?

    Accoring to Spider's theory, I'm in only the very early stages of Blogitis. I havne't even done the UTube video in the skimpy top yet! No need for medication!

  4. Spider,
    Hmm, I hadn't thought about singing a silly song in a skimpy outfit on YouTube, but now that you mention it...

    And hi Samantha! Yes, you're absolutely right, we need to see about a cure for incessant email-forwarding-itis.

    I'm never sure when someone forwards something and cc's a million people whether I owe them a return email or not. I've decided not.

    And I realize I've got a really bad case of blogitis myself. Here I am on a holiday weekend... in front of my laptop.

    I'm hoping others similarly afflicted will turn down barbecue invitations and come down here to the comments section and keep me company. Perhaps I need an internvention--a team of white-coated emergency workers to hustle me outside into the fresh air.

  5. I could see where Blogitis could be a chronic though only moderately serious condition. At least that's what I'm telling myself...
    As for Cyberchondria, that's just sad.
    Of course, those people who diagnose themselves are going to do it anyway. At least this way it's quicker.
    That's not very sensitive of me, I know, but it's true.

  6. Hi Dawn!

    You slipped in as I was posting, something I'm prone to doing over at your place.

    Maybe I should hire that PR guy for my skimpy-outfit YouTube singing debut. Then you can have him when I'm done with him--for whatever needs you may have.

  7. Hi leah,
    Damn, I did it again. Perhaps I should learn to ignore the "preview" button. At least my wish for more company in the comment section has been granted, almost within seconds of making it!

    So you've got "moderately serious" blogitis. Think there's a cure in sight? Or all we all headed for a full-blown outbreak requiring quarantine?

  8. Ha; this post is psychically connected to me. I totally went to an MS site last week with a case of fright because I fell right over after standing up. But in retrospect, I was writing forever -- with my legs crossed and I just cut off blood supply to said leg. I have a friend with ms and I guess I jump to radical conclusions...Even though I went to nursing school and know all about disease and pathology. But I don't do this all the time -- just the once; I'm sure I don't have an actual disease that ends in "ondria".

  9. Hah very good. Love the cynical twist at the end with the PR consultant pushing the term.

    cybercondria is definitely alive and well but I also have to thank the net for helping me find natural cures for my sore throat (egads it's sore this morning) and for helping me find out that my breasts were lactating due a side effect of medication, and not because I had cancer or had experienced the immaculate conception

    I have lost timitis. I'll just spend 5 minutes checking my emails then get stuck into my work. Three hours later after I've replied to all the comments on my blog, done return visits to commenters, checked up on the latest news in the forums and then checked out the news headlines, I wonder why the dogs are hanging around and I remember I haven't fed them and I'm still in my bedclothes...

    See this is what I love about working from home

  10. Hi Jennifer!
    Okay some weird parallels here: I had a leg give out on me and some weird buzzing down one side and ended up on an MS site (turned out to be a back problem. Which I figured out once I realized I'd sat in the same position with a cat on my shoulders for most of a day). And I too have a friend with MS whose early symptoms were very vague. It's a scary disease, and the kind that starts with the minor type symptoms that hypochondriacs (like me apparently) can end up worrying about.

    (MS must be a common one, because one of the guys in the ABC article was totally convinced he had it too).

    Hi Talia!
    You have a good point about there actually being helpful health info on the net--like our sites, for instance! Or at least yours. But I share your lost-timitis disorder. "Just one email" can take 3 hours.

  11. I love Dr. Google!

    ...although my pediatrician doesn't love that I visit him so much. (I have a touch of cyberchondria for my kids.)

  12. Well I think I have finally gotten over my Blogistis, took a while, but now I am able to function with it in remission. However I definitely have Google-itis. But I have decided to turn my affliction into a positive thing, and like any great super hero, have harnessed my new situation to become: Google Girl! Yes if you need something googled, just call and I'll be there!

  13. Katieo,
    Ooh, cyberchondria by Proxy--we could be famous and write it up for the literature! (I forget what you call it--Munchhausers by Proxy or whatever, but I just remember if you get a psychiatric problem on behalf of your kids, you get to name a whole new disease after it).

    And Adrienne, hi!
    Google girl--that's my kind of superhero. Actually, I don't mind typing in the query but I hate sorting through the results. Don't tempt me or I may be calling on you. I've got a handy phone booth if you need to change into your superhero costume before you rescue me. If you could find half the damn studies that I know I've read somewhere but can't find anymore, I'd be eternally grateful.

  14. Blogitis sounds like it should be physical rather than behavioral. Like a rash or a headache or vitamin D deficiency, or all three. Blogaddicition or Webaddiction is maybe closer to what's being described.

  15. Hi Appleton!
    Yes, blogitis does sound like it would at least itch or ooze or something.

    But BlogAddiction doesn't make for as snappy a headline, as the PR person who invented it probably discovered.


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