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5 Ways to Start Hard Conversations with Your Doctor

It's awkward, it's embarrassing, but at least it's not just you.


I’ve never been great in social situations, but conversations with my doctor have always been some of the most awkward. Eventually, I just had to accept that I will likely never be 100% comfortable talking about all the weird things my brain or body does. However, I have taken small steps to become comfortable enough to be 100% honest with both my physician and pharmacist.

During the research for this post, I learned a lot about conditions that will never fail to turn my cheeks red, from a head overrun by depression to toes troubled by bunions, and countless others in between. Far too many people will never feel comfortable discussing these with anyone.

Issues like chronic bad breath, incontinence, and sexual health concerns go ignored for fear of judgment. The CDC estimates that around 20% of adults have an STI on any given day.

Although it’s hard to jump right in with the deeply mortifying stuff, it needs to be addressed. To reach the finish line of true transparency, it’s essential to take it one step at a time. Building a trusting relationship with your healthcare providers goes a long way in making it easier to discuss any health-related topic. Use these approaches to help guide you through those clumsy conversations.

1. Use medical terms instead of casual terms

While you shouldn’t trust internet search results to diagnose you, you may be able to use them to help you find more specific terms to describe your symptoms. Using proper terms instead of casual ones can help create a comfortable distance between you and whatever awkward subject surrounds your condition.

2. Write it down

When you feel them, jotting down your symptoms can help you track the frequency and prevent you from leaving anything out. Passing your doctor the note or just reading from it are great ways to help explain things that make you nervous about discussing without preparation.

3. Remember, doctors are used to awkward topics

This one is just something to keep in mind. Doctors are used to hearing about weird stuff. Even if you’re the only one in the world with this condition, you’re not the only one that has been embarrassed to discuss issues with your doctor. Feeling nervous is very common; you’re not alone in that.

4. Consider going alone

On the other hand, there are cases where being alone is better. If you’re accompanied by a friend or family member on your trip to the doctor’s office or pharmacy, it can be uncomfortable to discuss your symptoms in front of them. Let your doctor know if you need more privacy. You can also try finding out if you can email or call them one-on-one to go into more detail. Writing notes also helps provide more privacy.

5. You don’t have to do it all at once

Developing a close relationship with your doctor can take some time. Building trust can help you navigate whatever you may be facing. It can help you be transparent about your health and strengthen your confidence in your doctor’s ability to help you.

All in all, whether you’re able to divulge everything to your doctor on your next visit or not, it’s okay. Move at whatever pace makes you comfortable. Remember, it’s just one step at a time.

If you need a little extra help taking those first few steps, book a free consultation with our pharmacist.

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