Tips on Making Your Next Trip to the Doctor A Good One

Senior, female patient sits on exam table waiting for the doctor.

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Going to the doctor can be nerve-wracking, there’s even a term for it, iatrophobia, the fear of doctors. Sometimes it is formidable enough to cause “the white coat syndrome,” causing one’s blood pressure to shoot up when a doctor or other healthcare professional is present.

If you identify with this, you’re not alone; sometimes it can be intimidating to go to the doctor, particularly when it’s not for a basic check-up, but instead because you’re sick and already feeling vulnerable. Or maybe you’ve had a bad experience, where a doctor didn’t believe your health issue and was dismissive. This can understandably cause a person to be very anxious. Whatever the case may be, the good news is that there are steps you can take to minimize your fear. See below.

  1. Take someone with you to your medical appointment. Having a trusted companion automatically puts most people more at ease. Also, if you get brain freeze – along with white coat syndrome – when seeing a medical professional, your companion can speak for you.
  2. Be prepared. Meaning, make a list of any questions and concerns you have about your health ahead of time, so that, if once again you get brain freeze, you can just glance at your notepad to jolt your memory. And, if you have a companion, it will be easier for them to help you out if you have everything written down.
  3. Be honest with your medical professional about your anxiety. Many doctors are overworked and overwhelmed themselves and may just need a reminder of what it feels like to be a patient. Now, we understand this isn’t always so easy, because what if the doctor doesn’t respond with empathy? Chances are they will, and you will feel so much better. Having said that, if you’re completely positive from past experience that they will not be empathetic, then it may be best to keep your nervousness to yourself – and follow steps one and two above.
  4. Ask to have your vitals taken last. This way, even if going to the doctor causes your blood pressure to skyrocket due to anxiety, it will still typically come down for most people as the appointment goes on.
  5. Lastly, do something calming before the appointment. Maybe take a yoga class or simply do some deep breathing, which calms the nervous system. Even a nice walk outside could do the trick.

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