Among the issues they are hoping to explore are cyberhoarding – reluctance to delete information gathered online – and cyberchondria – compulsively using search engines and websites in the hope of finding reassurance about medical fears, only to self-diagnose further ailments.
“What [hypochondriacs] used to do was search encyclopaedias and medical dictionaries and so on looking for signs and symptoms that they thought were serious,” said consultant psychiatrist Prof Naomi Fineberg of the University of Hertfordshire. “Of course, with the evolution of online resources people now search the internet for signs and symptoms potentially indicative of a serious disease.”
The problem, she said, is probably under-recognised. “I think it is more common than we realise,” she said. “I have seen it several times in my clinic.”