Feeling anxious about going to the doctor is completely normal. While we certainly honor the expertise of health professionals and appreciate having access to resources that prevent and treat medical conditions, fear and apprehension still keeps some patients from receiving the care they need. The reasons for apprehension vary, but are largely tied to some level of uncertainty. Fear of the unknown leaves room to imagine all the things that could go wrong and alarms us to the point of avoidance. The good news is you can alleviate some of your fears by adhering to these seven practices:
Vent your fears. Share your health concerns with a confidant. A safe space to talk through your fears affirms that you are not alone and gives your family member or friend space to listen and support you. Support can include everything from holding you accountable to following through with your scheduled visit or showing up to the visit with you.
Research and prepare questions ahead of your appointment. Visit credible health information websites like WebMD and Healthline to inform you of possible conditions and assist in describing to your doctor what symptoms you may be experiencing. The key is to avoid full-on self-diagnosis, try not to take the possibilities as law, and don’t enter symptoms into a broad Google search. Someone else’s symptoms, stories, and images can inadvertently be a deterrent to your personal care. If you come across anything online that resonates with you, or have additional concerns, write down your questions and let your doctor know at your appointment. Chances are they have heard it before and can offer a sense of calm.
Reach out anytime. Oftentimes, you need a moment to digest what occurred in your appointment and that’s okay. In healthcare, there is no such thing as ‘you snooze, you lose.’ As questions come up, do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor’s office. You may be able to send questions through your provider’s mobile app, online portal or by calling the office directly. Recommendations as simple as deep breathing and meditation can significantly relieve stress.
Get to know your medical team. Build a good rapport with your medical team. You’ll find that knowing your physician, nurses and other health professionals helps both parties get comfortable with each phase of the visit. Keep in mind that your medical care experience should feel more like a partnership. The more you communicate with each other, the more collaborative the treatment plan will be. Small talk is also a great rapport builder. Acknowledging the human outside of the circumstance is an important way to break the tension.
Go more often. Infrequent visits can play a role in increasing fear and anxiety. Leaving your health in the hands of a team you only see when you are sick can be daunting. It’s important to stay committed to annual check-ups when you are in good health and make good on follow-up appointments as they arise. The more you go, the less stressful the visit may become.
Schedule a telehealth visit. The COVID-19 pandemic has deterred many people from going to the doctor in fear of contracting the virus. As a result, for some patients, health conditions have worsened and required urgent or emergency care. To combat this issue, health professionals ramped up telehealth efforts to offer patients an alternative to in-person care. The virtual visit provides an opportunity for you to address your health concerns right away while remaining safe at home.
If it’s not a good fit, switch. There may come a time when your doctor is simply not a good fit for your preferred method of care and switching may be a way to alleviate your fear. Identifying a doctor and medical team that best meets your needs is essential to a great healthcare experience.
So, what’s the common thread in reducing your fear of going to the doctor? Acknowledging the fear, communicating the fear, and taking action to alleviate the fear. In doing so, you will put your mind and health at ease.
If you have yet to choose a doctor or are considering switching, enroll in USFHP’s TRICARE Prime plan. USFHP beneficiaries get to choose their doctors from our network of more than 20,000 top-rated health care professionals, and build trusting relationships where early detection, diagnosis, and effective treatments are most easily achieved.
There are four easy ways to enroll with USFHP: by phone, email, online or by mail. Let us take care of you and your family today!