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Are You Scared to Talk to Your Doctor?

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Are You Scared to Talk to Your Doctor?

By Anne-Marie Botek, Editor

Does the thought of talking to your doctor give you a racing heart and sweaty palms?

Maybe it’s the pristine white coats, or the years of schooling that we know are crammed into their brains. Whatever this x-factor of intimidation is, research has shown that people find doctors intimidating.

A recently published study has concluded that, despite efforts to encourage shared decision-making between doctors and their patients, a good portion of people continue to view their relationship with their physician as one between a subordinate and a superior, rather than as a partnership.

After conducting a series of focus groups in the San Francisco area, researchers found that, even though most patients said they desired an honest dialogue with their doctor, many didn’t feel comfortable actually having that conversation once they got into the exam room.

When asked about why they were hesitant to talk openly with their doctor, some participants said they felt they needed to conform to the traditional role of the compliant patient, while others felt that their physician was too “authoritarian” to be accessible.  Some participants even expressed the fear that being labeled a “difficult” patient might result in a doctor punishing them by doling out substandard care.

These findings are of no surprise to Kevin Jones, M.D., surgeon and researcher at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, who was not involved in the study. “Most patients don’t want to annoy a physician and get abandoned, so they are afraid to ask questions,” he says.

Indeed, when it comes to doctors, Jones says, “A person should be more afraid of not speaking to them. They should be more concerned about the things they are not learning, the things that are not being explained to them.”

As the author of the book, What Doctors Cannot Tell You: Clarity, Confidence and Uncertainty in Medicine, Jones is an expert on the barriers that stand in the way of effective doctor-patient dialogue.

How To Handle a Medication Moaner
A Geriatrician’s Opinion on Elders Who Refuse to Visit a Doctor
The Doctor Will See You Now: How to Get an Appointment Sooner

Are You Scared to Talk to Your Parent’s Doctor? originally appeared on

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8:24AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Most of my family doctors have been very easy to talk to, very generous with their time and always asking me if there was "anything else?" after I had finished with the present problem/s.

There was only one family doctor who was insufferable and that was a doctor from Iraq. He was not patient friendly and once when I had brought a list of my symptoms and was worried that it was something that I had, doing some research from the internet, he took my list away and asked me to list my symptoms from memory. That somewhat floored me and made me nervous, I could not remember them all which is often why I write things down. He did not approve of patients doing research and preparing lists. Not exactly the Dr. Oz. school of tolerance.

Several other patients of acquaintances also had him and they did not care for his manner either and after a year he had another job about an hour from where he practiced and I was not sorry to see him leave. Some specialists can be very overbearing as well.

9:15PM PDT on Jun 29, 2012

I go to the low cost clinic and have had wonderful nurse practioners and doctors. They are definately not working there for the money.

7:18PM PDT on Jun 29, 2012

My doctor put me on a medication that helped my fibromyalgia, but gave me some very bad side effects, so I asked her if I could reduce the dosage. She told me that it would take 3-4 months to slowly reduce the dosage, as it was too dangerous to come off it quickly. Two weeks later she told me it was OK to come off it "cold turkey " and wait a week or so to go onto a different medication. I came off the prescription and within one day went into serious withdrawal, which lasted over 3 weeks and 2 trips to the emergency room.
I told her that she gave me conflicting information, whereupon she told me that perhaps I should find another doctor (almost impossible in Toronto, Canada) and followed up by saying she would no longer be my GP.......I was stunned. I think she was scared that I would report her to the Ontario Medical Board and she might be investigated, she is a practising doctor here but her schooling was done in Europe ( may or may not be a factor).
I am now in a position where I have to find another doctor and pay to get a copies of my files sent to a new doctor. Makes you think you are better off without a doctor or just going to a walk in clinic or checking yourself online !!!!

6:20PM PDT on Jun 29, 2012

It's extremely important to be honest with your nurse practitioner or doctor. They can't help you completely if you don't give them the facts.

4:52PM PDT on Jun 29, 2012

"... it’s important for people to, “invite their physician down from the pedestal.”"

It's important that physicians don't put themselves up on a pedestal. If you're scared of your doctor - shop around. There are plenty of good ones out there that will treat you well.

1:05PM PDT on Jun 29, 2012

I do not share with my MD. It is a knowledge and experience based decision, not fear.

1:04PM PDT on Jun 29, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

12:26PM PDT on Jun 29, 2012

My family doctor - yes. She's very busy and when I go to see her I feel like I'm bothering her.

12:10PM PDT on Jun 29, 2012


12:04PM PDT on Jun 29, 2012

our doctors also are gatekeepers to various diagnostic, care and treatment options and thus there is never a sense of equal power

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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