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.
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.