If you leap online and then reach the worst possible conclusion every time you have a sniffle you might just be a cyberchondriac – the new millennium version of a hypochondriac.
That cough? I may have TB. Sore hands? Carpal tunnel syndrome, and that means I’ll have to stop working on a computer forever. That itchy eye? It’s galloping Pink Eye. That nodule growing on my ankle? Bubonic plague.
A new study shows that self-diagnosis by search engine frequently leads web searchers to conclude the worst. The study found that web searches for things like headache and chest pain were just as likely or more likely to lead people to pages describing serious conditions as benign ones, even though the serious illnesses are much more rare.
Actually, I blame shows like Grey’s Anatomy as well, the patients there never just have a migraine, it’s always a brain tumour or something far more unusual and why shouldn’t I have an extra-special illness too?
I have to go now, all this writing makes me a little tired and I am terribly afraid I have an impeding case of narcolepsy.
Actually, that’s not a rare and terminal disease as a former colleague, Mr G, actually did have narcolepsy. At least that was his excuse he gave for nodding off in front of his computer when he should have been sub-editing our deathless prose.
The bigger problem was, though, that he used to surf the internet for pornography in between subbing stories and all too often he would nod off. We work in an open-plan office which meant that these lurid images were up on his screen for passers-by to see. Literally, a case of being caught napping ...