A Trip to the Doctor's Office

A Trip to the Doctor's Office

Let's be real - going to your doctor's appointment isn't always on the list of fun things to do. We go to see our doctor when we are sick, injured, need medication, or have a chronic illness that we're managing. Many of us procrastinate scheduling those appointments, because we have busy lives and it's just one more thing to do. Or maybe we procrastinate because we are afraid of getting a scary diagnosis. Even a bad experience in the past can cause doctor's office dread. 

While many of us dread going to see the doctor, for some people, it can cause extreme anxiety and even panic attacks. The fear of doctors, known as iatrophobia, is often strong enough to provoke “white coat syndrome,” in which normally healthy blood pressure soars in the presence of a medical professional.

It's important not to let your dread prevent you from getting the care you need. Staying healthy and receiving medical care when you're sick should be a number one priority for all of us. There are ways you can help relieve some of the anxiety, stress, and hesitation when it comes to medical appointments.

  1. Schedule your appointment at a good time for you, and a good day of the week.  If you know you tend to be more anxious early in the morning, schedule an appointment for the afternoon. If Mondays are your most hectic days, schedule an appointment for later in the week when you won't feel as rushed.
  2. Take a family member or friend with you, if possible. Bringing someone that cares about you may help comfort you if you tend to be nervous at appointments. He or she may also offer another pair of eyes and ears to advocate for your care or catch important details you might miss in your stressed-out state.
  3. Control your breath. You may not realize it, but under stress, although we may not be aware of it, breathing becomes shorter and shallower, perpetuating the anxiety cycle. Invoke the relaxation response in the exam room with a breathing exercise.  Perhaps you try out the 4-7-8 technique (inhaling to the count of four, holding the breath for a count of seven, exhaling for a count of eight) or simply focus on filling your belly — not just your chest — with each inhalation.
  4. Mentally prepare ahead. Coping with medical anxiety isn't limited to your time at the doctor's office. Prior to your appointment, set yourself up for success with mindful meditation. Try meditating on positive affirmations related to your concerns.
  5. Be honest about your anxiety. Mental health is part of your overall health. You've made an appointment to talk to your doctor about your medical concerns, so be honest about how you're feeling mentally. Being honest about your worries will promote a more open relationship with your health care clinician, which will lead to less anxiety for you AND better care. Also be honest with the medical assistant or nurse checking your in. If you know you have white coat syndrome, let them know. They may want to check your vitals after your appointment instead of before.

Just remember that you aren't alone when it comes to doctor's appointment anxieties. Your health is the most important thing to you and your loved ones, so please don't put it off. HealthSource of Ohio clinicians want you to feel comfortable at your appointments,