Tips for Talking to Your Doctor About Sensitive Issues
Most of us are fine with going to the doctor and chatting about prescription needs, colds and flus, vaccinations, and the like. However, it can be more challenging bringing up and discussing sensitive issues with these people.
Even though that’s a medical practitioner’s job, and they’ve heard it all before, more sensitive topics can be something that feels very personal to mention to those we hardly know. Having the courage to have uncomfortable conversations is critical, though, as you don’t want problems to go undiagnosed or treated. Here are some tips for talking to your doctor about sensitive things the next time the need arises.
Select the Right Doctor
Feeling comfortable enough to discuss uncomfortable or very personal topics with a doctor largely depends on who that person is. It’s crucial to select the correct physician who makes you feel at ease and doesn’t seem to judge or interrupt you.
Choose someone you can have a joke with, perhaps, to ease some tension, and look for a practitioner who also has experience in the sensitive areas you need to chat to them about. It’s not nice bringing up something that makes you uneasy only to have the doctor react insensitively or not know anything and want to bring other people into the room for a second opinion.
Keep in mind, too, that you might like to speak with a physician remotely. These days, many primary care doctors and other medical practitioners offer appointments conducted online, whether via Zoom, Facetime, or some other video conferencing software or even phone calls or emails.
If having a little bit of distance between you and the person you’re discussing sensitive things with helps, then, by all means, choose that path. An online doctor visit is also helpful in that you can often book them outside of regular working hours. This flexibility could make a difference in how comfortable you feel chatting because you can speak when other people aren’t around in your environment or when you generally feel more relaxed.
See the Same Person Regularly
Another way to make talking about sensitive issues easier on yourself is to build a relationship with a single doctor rather than only ever seeing whichever physician is available for an appointment when you need one. By getting to know a health practitioner over multiple visits, you will learn to trust them and undoubtedly feel yourself opening up to them more and more. In turn, this will make it much easier to talk about things you’d otherwise put off bringing up.
Ask about Confidentiality and Privacy
It’s also wise to ask your doctor’s practice about what steps the physicians and administration and other staff take there to keep patient confidentiality and privacy top of mind. If you’re going to be chatting about more difficult subject matters than usual, you want to feel safe that your details won’t be compromised in any way.
Practices should keep all online systems carefully secured with good passwords, security software, and the like. Plus, they shouldn’t recycle or throw out patient records without first shredding them, and they should carefully vet any cleaners and other contractors who will potentially have access to data.
Take Advantage of Priming Phrases
Once you’re in an appointment with your doctor, you might like to utilize some priming phrases to bring up the more challenging topics. For example, you could ease into sensitive matters by confessing to your doctor that you’re “nervous and worried about bringing something up” or that you’ve “never shared this with anyone before,” etc.
This cues your physician into the fact that you’re treading on more difficult ground, so they know to react appropriately and treat you gently. Such prefacing also slows down interactions, so you can control the pace of the appointment a bit more and therefore feel more secure.
Write Things Down
You might find it helpful to write notes down for yourself to have on hand during your doctor’s appointment. When we’re sitting in front of a physician and feel on the spot, it’s easy to get embarrassed and forget what we’re going to say, or only remember some pertinent information and not the rest.
However, making note of symptoms, questions, and other things before you arrive can provide comfort and reduce the risk that you miss out on mentioning or asking important things. Plus, rehearsing what you want to say or ask should help you feel less nervous at the time of the appointment.
We all must have more challenging conversations at times throughout our lives, and some of the ones with doctors can be right up there in the most awkward list. As such, follow the above tips to help take some of the stress out of it for you.