Aug 27, 2009

Overcoming Doctorphobia

An e-mail to Doctor D:

"I am absolutely TERRIFIED of doctors... I have avoided doctors like the plague... how do I get around my fear of doctors?"
Doctorphobia is a common but curable condition. It can start with your first shots as a child. Throw in an uncomfortable exam of a body orifice, add a few run-ins with jerk doctors while you are wearing nothing but a paper gown, and you can end up with a full-blown phobia of anyone in a white coat.

If you had any idea what a bunch of nerdly social misfits we doctors really are you would be more likely to laugh than tremble. Unfortunately doctors, like dogs, can smell fear and often exploit it. When nervous greenhorn medical students first realize that patients are terrified of them they should respond with compassion. But when they realize being feared makes them feel special and powerful the “god complex” begins.

Here are some techniques for taking the fear out of your doctor visits:
  • The Honest Approach: You wouldn't believe how many patients have started their visit with Doctor D by saying, “I hate doctors. They scare the shit out of me!” This reminds Doctor D that he should be friendly and calm. Honestly confronting them with this truth should induce your doctor to respect you. If a doctor is mean right after you admit Doctorphobia then you can move on—you don't need that jerk.
  • Remember that doctors are scared too: What your mom told you about snakes in the woods is also true of doctors: “They are more frightened of you than you are of them.” Medicine is an anxiety-producing business, and doctors are nervous most of the time. We are responsible for the life and health of our patients, and most of what we do is based on educated-guesses. We live in constant fear of screwing up. It's enough to give anyone an ulcer. We hide our anxiety well, but you can rest assured that the scary doctor is often more nervous than you. Like middle-school boys, the doctors who strut and yell are usually most insecure. Any doctor that intentionally tries to scare you is more worthy of your pity than trepidation.
  • Remember that you are the boss: Economically speaking, your doctor works for you. You pay them for a service and if they don't work out you take your business elsewhere. No, this doesn't mean you can order a boat-load of narcotics Michael Jackson-style, but it does mean you should feel more empowered in your doctor-patient relationships. You can always fire your doctor.
  • Change doctors: Some people love no-nonsense, semi-abusive doctors, but aggressive docs are not good for people with Doctorphobia. Consider moving to a doctor with a different doctoring style. “Buddy” and “Parent” doctors are usually more gentle (although they do have their problems).
  • Picture your doctor naked: This is a time-tested method for overcoming anxiety. Doctors are about the only strangers who can legitimately ask you to disrobe, so you should have no qualms about turning the tables on them in your mind. No doctor can be scary in their whitey-tighties. (Warning: This technique may be too distracting if your doctor is as handsome as Doctor D.)
Any readers have other tips for beating Doctorphobia?


Doctor D said...

Doctor D got an email expressing understandable skepticism about the "Honest Approach"

You would be shocked at how well this tactic works!

Not only has it worked on Doctor D multiple times, but he has heard many other doctors recount how patients saying this did amazing things to make them nicer.

Anonymous said...

I ain't even gonna touch the last suggestion -- OY -- that would be funny and interesting were people to utilize that one.

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