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The Ill-Effects of Self-Diagnosis and Cyberchondria on Online Platforms


Amrita Tiwari – Research Associate, her interest lies in social dimensions of the digital ecosystem.

Summary- In this episode of Unwiring Tech, we explore the risks of using online #health  resources and the phenomenon known as cyberchondria—in which the #internet  fuels health anxiety. We also delve into the dangers of self-misdiagnosis and its potential impact on seeking proper medical care.

Transcript- Host: Welcome to another episode of “Unwiring Tech,” your go-to podcast for insightful discussions around the digital world. I’m your host Amrita and today we’re diving into a concerning trend that’s emerged on social media platforms wherein individuals from young to old, are self-diagnosing mental health issues.

Host: In this episode, we explore the risks of using online health resources and the phenomenon known as cyberchondria—in which the internet fuels health anxiety. We’ll also delve into the dangers of self-misdiagnosis and its potential impact on seeking proper medical care.

Host: Before we dive in, let’s address cyberchondria, a term used to describe individuals who experience heightened health anxiety after scouring the internet for symptoms and potential illnesses. Dr. Maya Patel, a renowned psychologist, sheds light on this concerning trend.

Host: Cyberchondria is a real concern in today’s digital age. With vast amounts of health information at our fingertips, some individuals become consumed with anxiety, convinced they have serious health conditions based on their online searches.

Host: In Bengaluru, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) has observed a concerning phenomenon known as the ‘Barnum Effect,’ where people tend to relate with and self-diagnose ailments based on generic information found online.

Host: Dr. Latha K, a professor at NIMHANS, compares this tendency to reading horoscopes, where individuals believe the description applies specifically to them, even though it’s general and open-ended.

Host: The accessibility of health information can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it empowers individuals to take charge of their health, but on the other, it can trigger unnecessary anxiety and fear.

Host: Dr. Prabha Chandra, Dean of Behavioral Sciences at NIMHANS, highlights an example of people diagnosing themselves with Attention Deficit Health Disorder (ADHD) due to loss of focus and procrastination. However, such symptoms can have various causes, and self-diagnosis can lead to misinterpretations.

Host: Recently, a 26-year-old man in Jharkhand died due to consumption of oleander seeds to cure his toothache. He resorted to such a step after watching a video on YouTube. Instances like this speak volume about the huge impact of social media in seeking medical help.

Host: Not only adults but there can be seen an alarming rise in teenagers using platforms like TikTok and Instagram to self-diagnose mental health conditions. Social media has become a double-edged sword when it comes to mental health. On one hand, it offers valuable information and support for some individuals. But on the other hand, it can be a source of misinformation and misdiagnosis.

Host: There are so many potential risks associated with self-diagnosing mental health issues on social media. Foremost, it may lead to incorrect judgments about their mental health challenges, causing individuals to take actions or make decisions based on a false self-diagnosis. This can have serious consequences on their well-being and sense of identity. Moreover, some teenagers may over-identify with certain labels to excuse their behaviors in social situations, leading to further complications.

Social media platforms should actively moderate mental health content and remove misleading or harmful information. They can also introduce features that encourage responsible content creation, such as disclaimers and reminders to seek professional help. Promoting positive online communities focused on mental health support can also be beneficial.

Host: To our listeners, remember that mental health is a serious matter, and self-diagnosing is not a substitute for professional evaluation. Encourage open conversations with teenagers and guide them towards reliable sources. Together, we can foster a healthier digital environment for our youth.

Remember, the internet can be a vast sea of information, and it’s crucial to navigate it responsibly. Seek the guidance of medical experts for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Host: That’s all for today’s episode of “Unwiring Tech. Thank you for listening.

Additional Readings

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4507062/

2. https://www.ijrrjournal.com/IJRR_Vol.9_Issue.9_Sep2022/IJRR38

3. https://inspect-lb.org/the-role-of-social-media-in-self-medication-during-the-covid-19-outbreak-a-multi-national-cross-sectional-study-across-thirteen-countries/


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