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Doctors appointments can be awkward. If you only see your doctor once a year, it can be hard to feel comfortable around them (especially when you’re supposed to divulge sensitive information). Doctors can reference your file to see what you’ve been treated for in the past, but bringing up new issues can feel intimidating if your doctor seems to be rushing through your appointment or judging you for what you’ve been through. It’s important to talk about anything on your mind that has a direct impact on your well being. Being honest with your doctor is key for your physical and mental health, but it turns out, most are afraid to be honest.
A new study published in JAMA Network Open on August 14, 2019 found that 40 to 47.5 percent of participants did not tell their doctors about serious health threats of sexual assault, suicidal thoughts, depression, or abuse. The research looked at the results of two surveys of almost 5,000 adults. Seventy percent of the people who chose not to confide in their doctor said it was because they were either embarrassed or were afraid they would be judged. Even more staggering was the finding that “if the patient was female or younger, then the odds were higher they would keep this information to themselves,” summarized Science Daily. These facts are disheartening. Not being able to talk to your doctor — especially about serious physical or mental health issues — can lead to disastrous consequences like trauma, physical harm, sickness, and more. It’s important to take care of yourself, even in your vulnerable moments, and part of that care comes from knowing when to report something, share feelings, and ask your doctor for help.
“I understand that people don’t always want to share with their doctors, because they are embarrassed or worried about being lectured. That’s why it's important to find a doctor who you feel comfortable with. Your doctor is there to help, not to judge. If you don’t feel like you can share important information with your doctor that could potentially save your life, there is nothing wrong with looking for another doctor,” advises Dr. Oz after learning about these shocking research statistics.
But how do you go about finding a doctor you’re comfortable with? It’s actually easier than you may think. As Dr. Oz suggests, you should first get into the mentality that you should be finding and seeing a doctor that makes you comfortable, and if your current one doesn’t, it’s okay to lose them and look for someone else.
How to Find a Doctor
Once you’ve established you need to look for a better doctor go ahead and do some research. Start with people you trust first. Ask your family and friends for recommendations and see if their doctors are in your networks.
Next, talk to your insurance company. You can check online or over the phone to see the doctors that are available to you on your plan. If you don’t have insurance, Healthcare.gov has a tool to help you find healthcare recommendations at little to no cost in your area. When you narrow down the list start to look at specifics: their licenses, credentials, online reviews. Do a full online search of their reputation (think of it like looking into someone before a first date).
When you’ve found one (or a few) you like call their offices to ask questions about both the doctor and the office to make you feel more at-ease about making an appointment. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a list of great questions to ask. The Department also suggests asking yourself questions after you’ve gone to your appointment to assess how you feel. Did you feel comfortable around the doctor? Did the doctor listen to you? Did you feel like you could ask the questions that were on your mind?
The difference between having a doctor you trust and having one you don’t can be life saving. Don’t take a gamble on your health, make sure you’re talking to a doctor about how you feel, both physically and mentally, to improve your quality of life.
If you need immediate help for sexual assault, suicidal thoughts, depression or abuse contact:
- Your local police department: 911
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4973
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
All of these numbers have professionals ready, willing, and able to assist you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.