Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Roadblock to the Doc

     Why do some people avoid going to the doctor? Is it a gender thing? As caregivers, women can run out of time and energy for their own doctor appointments after carting everyone else around. Men need to go to the doctor less frequently since they don’t have the annual GYN exam. Sometimes it boils down to a lack of finances, insurance, or time off. And some people just don’t like sitting in the waiting room thumbing through the latest Kim Kardashian gossip.

     But anxiety is another reason why people don’t go to the doctor, according to psychologist Amy Fox, PhD, of Meritus Health’s Behavioral Health Services. “From the sterile instruments to the pokes and prods, you have to understand what’s driving the anxiety,” said Fox. “What is it about the situation that’s causing the fear? Is it the doctor, the procedure, or possible diagnosis that’s creating this level of dread?”

Here are some tips to overcome a doctor roadblock:
  • Make sure the doctor-patient relationship is a good fit. If not, find a more compatible physician. 
  • If the doctor comes from a referral, talk to other patients about what to expect (physician’s personality, nursing staff, wait time, etc.). 
  • Write down questions in advance. Patients often get tongue-tied or feel rushed, so it’s important to have a planned dialogue. 
  • Bring a spouse or friend to the appointment as a second set of ears and a shoulder to lean on. 
  • Establish a reward system for completing the appointment—whether it’s a latte, round of golf, or new handbag. 
     Fox warns that spouses and friends should not guilt the reluctant patient into seeing the doctor—or worse, make the appointment. “Ask questions rather than give demands,” said Fox.

     Do you remember Lucy diagnosing Charlie Brown’s problems? Sometimes extreme distress about visiting the doctor means a bigger problem. People with iatrophobia, the fear of going to a doctor, see physicians as agents of doom rather than partners in health. If the reluctant patient, or a family member, experienced a horrible medical visit in the past, it can serve as the foundation for the acute fear. Severe phobias, said Dr. Fox, are best left to mental health professionals.

By Anne Gill

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