New challenges in facing Cyberchondria during the COVID-19 pandemic
Cyberchondria (CYB) is characterized by excessive online searching for medical information and is associated with increasing levels of distress, anxiety and interference with daily activities. As the use of digital devices and the Internet as a source of everyday information has increased, particularly during the current COVID-19 pandemic, so has CYB, becoming an object of interest to clinicians and researchers. The present review will provide an overview of the latest updates in CYB research. Emerging evidence draws attention to various vulnerability factors for developing CYB, including personal characteristics such as female gender, younger age, or a history of mental disorder, as well as engagement in particular forms of online behaviour such as increased use of social media, increased acceptance of online information, information overload. Additionally, recent studies suggest CYB may itself act as a mediating factor for increased COVID-19-related psychological burden. However, the data is still very sparse. Knowledge gaps include a universally accepted definition of CYB, severity thresholds to help differentiate non-pathological online health searches from CYB, as well as robustly evidence-based interventions. Highlights: ● Cyberchondria is a compulsive form of Internet searching for health-related information. ● Females, younger individuals, a history of mental disorder or increased use of social media, increased acceptance of online information, or information overload represent risk factors for cyberchondria. ● Promising preventative and therapeutic approaches need to be validated in definitive randomised clinical trials.