That half an hour of internet usage has dramatically changed Sekhar’s life. He is a thirty two year old soft ware engineer, who worked, worked-out and partied hard. He has two adorable kids and a well-supporting wife. But his life just turned upside down on a quite Sunday afternoon and here is why…
He had a really ‘healthy lunch’ that Sunday, and was relaxing by the side of the big French window overlooking an unreally beautiful garden, reading a dilapidated version of Ayn Rand’s "Fountain Head” and thought that he was nothing like Howard Roarke. He gazed longingly at his kids and his wife who were sitting, laughing, shouting and playing ‘Snakes and Ladders’. Later, he would swear that it was precisely the moment when it all started.
He started having a dull ache in the chest which was in the middle and the left side of his chest. He moved a little, but it kept on increasing at a leisurely pace, not quite unbearable though. He got up, walked around and took a deep breath. T
he ache did come down, but did not go away. After half an hour, he decided to use his new ‘Macbook air’ to decide what kind of pain he has. Later, his doctor (that’s me) would swear that it was precisely the moment when it all started.
He googled the words "chest pain”. And boy! did he find something? He got 28,900,000 results in 0.12 seconds. Silently, he sweetly admonished his own notebook: "Are you for real?”. Then he clicked on the first link that appeared:
Just below the categories in the page, the following text appeared in bold:If you are having severe pain, crushing, squeezing, or pressure in your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or if the pain moves into your neck, left shoulder, arm, or jaw, go immediately to a hospitalemergency department. Do not drive yourself. Call 911 for emergency transport.
And he panicked. Not simple panic, he got terrorized was more like it. Cold shivers started from his spine and sweat appeared on his forehead. Barely keeping up his bravado, he clicked on the next site. Wikipedia! Aha. This must be good, he thought. This was the first line: "Chest painmay be a symptom of a number of serious conditions and is generally considered amedical emergency”. This threw him overboard. Now he was certain that he had a heart attack. He started having breathlessness and palpitations. He was sure he would die. What of all the plans he had for his life?
The next few hours were a blur. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where the cardiologist was not available being a Sunday afternoon and the duty doctor there had taken an ECG, which he was told was "not entirely normal”. He was taken in an over-speeding ambulance to a cardiac hospital, where he was admitted for observation for 24 hours, was submitted for various tests and was discharged on Monday evening with the diagnosis of "Non Cardiac Chest Pain”.
Sekhar came to me on Monday evening. He is still coming to see me despite knowing that he does not have heart disease. He has got panic instilled in his mind and his life is not the same anymore.
Internet is an information treasure trove, but sometimes information can lead to fear and panic. Sekhar has got the information from reputed sites. There was no false information on the sites either. They were just trying to help those with a heart problem. And neither google nor the darn computer knew whether Sekhar had a heart problem: they just threw up the pages according to the page rank.
The cyberchondria is defined as the unfounded escalation of concerns about common symptomology based on review of search results and literature online.
How to treat or prevent this disorder? Please post your views and I shall put up mine in the next blog.