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This is worth noting as a late entry to the group of words in the prefix cyber-, so fashionable in the middle nineties for matters related to online communications. The second element is clearly enough from the word hypochondria, abnormal anxiety about one’s health. Medical professionals seem to have coined the word in exasperation at people who frantically search online for detailed information on their medical problems, real or imagined. There are three difficulties with doing so — much online material is designed for other professionals and is difficult to interpret unless you’re already well versed in the field, some is biased or wrong, and some comes from unregulated sellers of pharmaceuticals who don’t know purchasers’ medical histories and cannot predict possible side effects. There’s so much material available that a person with unfocused worries about health can easily become convinced they’re suffering from any number of serious ailments.

There was a time when the internet fed and fuelled her health concerns — and she has featured in a number of articles about “cyberchondria”, which occurs when an individual surfs the net in a frenzy of health anxiety.

Observer, Mar. 2001

Hypochondria, the excessive fear of illness, has now been overtaken by cyberchondria — the same fear made much worse, fuelled by volumes of easily-accessible material available on the Internet.

Daily Record, May 2001

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 26 May 2001

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-cyb2.htm
Last modified: 26 May 2001.