How Open Should I Be with my Doctor?  

How Open Should I Be with my Doctor?  

It’s generally accepted among medical providers that the more information a patient shares, the better the care they can provide. There are very strong arguments for accurately answering everything a doctor asks you about your medical history and your current health and well-being. 

But what if there are details you don’t want to share because you’re afraid of being judged or for fear a doc will lecture you on habits that aren’t considered the healthiest of the healthy?  

It’s fair to say that most providers aren’t seeking reasons to shame you. For example, questions about alcohol consumption or recreational drug usage are important because doctors want to ensure there aren’t any risks of overuse/abuse. If it’s determined that self-medication is occurring, your doctor would likely ask you about life stressors and mental health obstacles. Ideally, they would then be able to provide supportive community referrals and resources. Additionally, because alcohol use, etc. can interfere with prescription medications, it’s in your best interest to be as frank as possible.  

When it comes to sex, many of us would like to be open with our doctors. But all too many general physicians aren’t trained in sexual medicine, nor in how to carry on conversations with their patients about sexuality. This can make it very difficult to find help for sexual dysfunction/pain symptoms. Oftentimes, these types of concerns affect our engagement with others, making it all the more complex.  

We also can no longer ignore the fact that everyone has implicit biases, and healthcare providers are no exception. We know that individuals such as women, BIPOC, and those who identify as LGBTQ2IA+ often report experiences of disrespect, dismissal, and lower standards of care than their white, straight, male counterparts do. Shamefully, the healthcare system has a long history of “othering” members of these communities, creating a climate of distrust and fear. 

How can we address these issues so that we all feel heard by our providers?  

  • If you are able to choose among a few doctors, do your research and see how your values might align with potential candidates. 
  • If your insurance or other financial situation dictates who you see, consider bringing a friend or family member with you to help you advocate for yourself.  
  • If language is a barrier, ask for a translator or at least request that the doctor use a translation app. 

How truthful you are with your doctors is of course up to you. Ideally, you should feel comfortable being honest and open and asking any questions you have – even ones that might feel a little awkward. Remember, knowledge is power. And that goes for both doctor and patient. If you’re experiencing any type of sexual concern, contact us to schedule a free phone consultation to see how we can help you. 

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