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Are you a cyberchondriac?

December 11, 2015

We've all consulted Dr. Google from time to time. But when does the search for answers online go from perfectly normal to potentially problematic? Ask yourself if these experiences sound familiar.

You can't stop after just one result

Compulsively clicking through multiple sites puts you at risk of believing info that may not be backed by science or experts. If you need a quick answer to a simple query, limit yourself to five minutes on a credible health organization's site. Look for ones that end in .edu or .gov, meaning they're affiliated with a university or governmental agency.

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Searching makes you anxious

Research shows that people end up feeling even worse after seeking out medical information online. And the stress can make your symptoms feel more intense.

It interferes with your personal life

Keep a daily log to see how often you're checking symptoms instead of doing offline activities, like exercising or hanging with friends. If you're regularly sacrificing these things, you're in the red zone.

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You're convinced you have a deadly disease

A search for information on a vague symptom, such as a headache, could lead you to everything from caffeine withdrawal to a brain tumor. If you're fixated on the extreme results, you might end up putting yourself at risk by pursuing medication or expensive medical tests that you don't actually need.

You trust the Internet more than your doctor

A recent study showed that the first diagnoses offered up by online symptom checkers are wrong about 66 percent of the time. Your MD is the one who can give a proper examination and make an educated diagnosis.

Health‘s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.

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