Coping with illness by using the internet

TUCSON, Ariz. - In the age of technology, many dealing with illnesses turn to the internet to get support and learn more about their condition. University of Arizona Communication professor, Stephen Rains, explores the benefits of doing this.

"Illness itself is very isolating," said Rains.

Rains said people go online to cope by connecting with others going through the same struggle. He details this in his new book, "Coping With Illness Digitally."

"Sometimes when people get diagnosed with serious illness they feel set apart from others and so family and friends, try as they might, just cannot simply understand what its like and don't know what they're going through," said rains.

Rains said a key benefit of digital coping is visibility to those who feel isolated. He said visibility is when people make their situations known to their online network, and to also describe those who are able to search for similar situations that happened to other people.

"One of the real values, I think, of online communities is people can go and they can witness other and how they are coping. And from that they can draw insights that they can use to better manage their illness," said Rains.

Aside from negativity that may come with internet use, Rains believes the internet is having largely positive effects in this area.

"The internet is in the news for things like election interference, identity theft, cyber-bullying. I think this is one of the few places where these online communities dedicated to health tend to be supportive and helpful places," said Rains.

Before writing his book, Rains noticed the research on this topic was disconnected. He says "Coping With Illness Digitally" brings research in several fields together to explore how people turn to online resources when ill.

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