Corona fear fallout: ‘Cyberchondria’ surging among people

The phobia of falling prey to coronavirus, coupled with depression and anxiety, is making people prone to a disorder called 'cyberchondria'.

Psychologists at the Moti Lal Nehru (MLN) divisional hospital in Prayagraj, say that people, in such circumstances, tend to surf the internet and access 'excessive information' which leads to the disorder.

Dr Ishanya Raj, a psychologist at MLN hospital, said: "Anxiety, at times, is good because it pushes us to deal with potential emergency but, at the same time, too much anxiety is overwhelming and can cause more problems than the objective fear.

"Nowadays, people are looking for information about Corona symptoms on the internet to check their health status, which is absolutely fine. However, a large number of people who are overly distressed or anxious about their health, are seen making excessive or repeated health-related searches on the internet which makes them even more distressed. This is known as 'cyberchondria'."

According to the doctor, cyberchondria generally leads to higher degrees of stress which, in turn, can cause elevated blood pressure, headaches, muscle tension, and a weakened immune system. Often, the problem in a person is triggered by an event, such as the patient suffering a health scare, somebody in their family getting ill or dying, or a famous person of their age dying or getting sick.

Dr Raj further explained: "In the present scenario, the pandemic is the only thing which people, and the media, is talking about all the time. People tend to search the internet where they get incomplete information and this enhances the anxiety and fear. In fact, this complicates the problem instead of solving it."

According to the expert, the problem is greater in urban and semi-urban population that has access to internet.

The problem is same even in semi-urban populace.

Dr RK Sarkar, a psychiatrist in Kanpur, said that the problem was found mainly in the youth which is tech-savvy.

He cited the example of a teenage boy whose parents had been consulting him almost on a daily basis because their son told them that had had all symptoms of Corona as per information found on the internet. The boy was checked up and is healthy but, apparently, is suffering from cyberchondria.

He advised that people should refrain from compulsive checking of the pandemic on the internet and also avoid watching television shows that talk about the Corona scare.

"If a person suffers from a specific symptom for a few days, it would be advisable to get a professional's opinion on the matter because a doctor can provide more reliable information than an internet search. Excessive health anxiety, often, leads to ill- health," he said


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