The Empowerment of Cyberchondriacs by Health Forums

This is one of my latest pet peeves: pulling up a health forum to look for information about a condition, local groups or clinics, or tips on lifestyle changes that can improve someone’s health (a good example of this would be losing weight to help control blood pressure) – only to find page after page of angry, hysterical, write-in-all-caps posts that don’t do anything but get the OP (original poster) a lot of attention and sympathy.

In looking at the other posts an OP has written – and there are usually a whole lot of them, each one posted on several different places on the forum – it becomes evident that most likely there is nothing at all wrong with them.

Welcome to the world of cyberchondriacs!

Cyberchondriacs are folks who spend hours on the internet looking up symptoms and
convincing themselves they have one or more diseases. Once they have decided on an illness, they haunt the various online forums to: whine about how ill they feel, bitch about the (many)
doctors they have seen who insist there is nothing wrong with them, yell (in caps) about family and friends who have been mean to them by not listening to them or ‘being there’ for them when they are in the throes of (pick a disease), or ask for health advice.

I should qualify that – ask for ‘alternative health advice’, because “the medical profession wants people to stay sick” and the only people who listen to the cyberchondriacs (and gladly take their money) are the many hucksters selling cures online.

It’s often easy to spot the cyberchondriacs if you peruse the post titles (“Help! Someone please help me!” – I promise you that is a direct quote), but oftentimes they will hijack a perfectly good thread in order to get the attention they so desperately seek. There is one forum I have found that is so rife with garbage like that, that if I were a member of the foundation that runs the forum I would be really embarrassed.

It’s not a surprise to me that hypochondriacs (or as it is now politically correct to say, “those with illness anxiety disorder”) have flooded the internet with wild abandon. After all, they have a built-in audience of possibly millions of people who can meet their need for attention, 24 hours a day. The reason I don’t think “illness anxiety disorder” is a correct name for this is that it leaves out the manipulative aspect of this behavior.

Hospital employees are all too familiar with “frequent flyers”, particularly those who routinely check themselves into psych wards, and I haven’t met anyone who works in this field who hasn’t faced the wrath of a hypochondriac when challenged. And by “challenged”, I mean everything from gently suggesting their doctor might be right to outright getting them discharged when it is clear they have no intention of complying with the rules (such as taking their meds). And by “wrath”, I mean everything from writing grievances to contacting CEOs to demand the healthcare worker be fired.

These people WILL get their attention OR ELSE! How much easier, though, to just log in and get your needs met whenever you feel like it?

It doesn’t matter if the illness is physical or mental, check any forum and you will usually find at least one small group of cyberchondriacs. They tend to bond quickly with others of their ilk, and routinely defend each other and make attempts to run people off who tell them to stick to the issues and/or go to the doctor.

They wear their ‘illness’ like a badge – that is, if they even are ill, which I suspect many are not – and complain frequently and loudly that no one understands them but the people on the forum.

Who does that, actually WANT to have a chronic illness? That’s a rhetorical question, of course.

It has been suggested that we really ought to feel sorry for people like that, but I disagree. They usually have personality disorders and are often out for blood – Goddess help you if you are their target! I don’t feel sorry for people who knowingly inject themselves into someone else’s life (or a forum), mess it all up, and then leave a trail of damage behind them.

They know what they’re doing, or they wouldn’t be so good at it.

And to do that on a forum where the majority of people are already suffering and do not need that kind of stress (because it can aggravate the condition) is….is…..well, it’s just evil and there is no excuse for it.

You guys who know me are thinking, “Oh, I bet she shot her mouth off about something and got a group of people upset!” and you would be right. I had the audacity to write something in a journal (not in the open forum, mind you, because I do not impose my uhem strong opinions on others) on the forum I mentioned previously that has a glut of cyberchondriacs.

I had been watching as member after member was attacked and run off because they wouldn’t play the sympathy game. All I did was appeal to people to stop being cliquish and stop insulting others, and for the most part I got a good reaction to it. I won’t post it here because it is very long.

But I also had 2 people respond with such vitriol it was almost shocking – and I deleted both their posts. I added a note asking again that people keep their nasty comments to themselves or publish those on their own journal. I reiterated that I wrote this on my own journal and not in the forum so that if people found it upsetting – for whatever reason – they didn’t have to read it.

Why was it necessary for me to write that upsetting people by name-calling and passive-aggressive behavior aggravates the very condition people are there to get support for? That is, of course, also rhetorical, because it’s obvious these folks couldn’t care less about what effect their behavior has on others.

The experience didn’t run me off – y’all know me better than that – nor did it cause a major flare-up, tears, or yelling. Hey, that’s why I write rants like this, to get it off my chest in a healthy way. I did, however, set the privacy settings for that particular entry to “friends only”, because I just can’t be arsed checking my journal every day in order to delete stuff.

So…what’s the most annoying/oddest/head-scratchiing forum you’ve read lately?

This is the 2nd weird news item of the day, because I wrote 2 posts today, and it comes from the Pennlive website

It’s a story about 2 Huntingdon County women (that’s not too far from Hollidaysburg) who got into a fight and started attacking each other with deer heads! Of course, the deer heads were mounted and not attached to deer bodies (wouldn’t that have been something if they had been though!), and both were arrested. One sustained a slight injury from an antler heh.

This kind of thing is why I will always refer to Central PA as “Mayberry on acid.”
Here’s the link:

2nd movie recommendation of the week: If you like psychological thrillers that do NOT contain the usual gore and hackneyed plots, check out a film called “Knife Edge” (2009) starring Hugh Bonneville and Natalie Pressman. It’s a good story with some twists, and it will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s available on Amazon and Hulu.


5 thoughts on “The Empowerment of Cyberchondriacs by Health Forums

  1. charlies5169

    I have seen “Dance Me Outside”. I enjoyed it a lot, now I can’t wait to get an Indian name too. Lol.

    If you like that, you’ll probably like “Smoke a Signals”, also with Adam Beach. Lots of Indian humor, that I think a lot of people just wouldn’t get.


  2. Victoria Post author

    That part about the “ceremony” really made me laugh, too!
    Andy Heyman mentioned Smoke Signals in his comment on another post. I’ve seen that one too, and recommended “Powwow Highway” by David Seals, which is another excellent film. Great minds, eh?


  3. Victoria Post author

    Loved the soundtrack too. Always been a Robbie Robertson fan. And of course any U2 music that pops up anywhere is a nice surprise too. A connection between the Irish and the American Indians – I have seen that before. I might look into that, or of course any of my Irish friends are welcome to comment (yes, I am looking at YOU and you know who you are!).


  4. Pingback: The Struggle for Health: Battleground or Middle Ground? | Victoria's Viewpoint

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