Cyberchondria and its Relationships with Related Constructs: a Network Analysis

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Journal Article
Psychiatric Quarterly, 2019, 90 (3), pp. 491 - 505
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© 2019, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature. Cyberchondria denotes repeated online searches for health information that are associated with increasing levels of health anxiety. The aims of this study were to apply network analysis to investigate the extent to which cyberchondria is a distinct construct, ascertain which of the related constructs have the strongest relationships with cyberchondria and investigate whether some of the symptoms of cyberchondria are more central to the construct of cyberchondria. Questionnaires assessing the severity of cyberchondria, health anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms, intolerance of uncertainty, problematic Internet use, anxiety, depression and somatic symptoms were administered to 751 participants who searched for health information online during a previous 3-month period and were recruited from an online crowdsourcing platform. Network analyses were used to compute the networks, perform community detection tests and calculate centrality indices. Results suggest that cyberchondria is a relatively specific syndrome-like construct, distinct from all related constructs and consisting of interrelated symptoms. It has the strongest relationships with problematic Internet use and health anxiety. No symptom of cyberchondria emerged clearly as more central to the construct of cyberchondria. Future research should aim to deepen our understanding of cyberchondria and its links with psychopathology, especially its close relationship with problematic Internet use.
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