Does cyberchondria overlap with health anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms? An examination of latent structure and scale interrelations

J Anxiety Disord. 2016 Mar;38:88-94. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2016.01.009. Epub 2016 Jan 28.

Abstract

Searching for medical information online is a widespread activity that increases distress for many individuals. Researchers have speculated that this phenomenon, referred to as cyberchondria, overlaps substantially with both health anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. This study sought to examine: (1) the distinguishability of cyberchondria from health anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms and (2) the components of health anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms that cluster most strongly with cyberchondria. The sample consisted of community adults in the United States with no current reported medical problems (N=375). Results from confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) support the idea that cyberchondria is distinct from, yet related to, health anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Results from zero-order correlations and regression analyses suggest that cyberchondria clusters with the affective (health worry) component of health anxiety. Regression results diverged from prior findings, as obsessive-compulsive symptoms did not share associations with cyberchondria after accounting for negative affect and health anxiety. The present results indicate that cyberchondria is possibly discernible from both health anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms, while also providing insight into areas of potential overlap.

Keywords: Cyberchondria; Health anxiety; Health worry; Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypochondriasis / psychology*
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • United States
  • Young Adult