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Things You Don’t Tell Your Doctor (But Should)

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Things You Don’t Tell Your Doctor (But Should)

How many times have you filled out the form at the doctorís office and lied? Everyone raise their hands (Bueller? Bueller?). Yeah, me too. And Iím a doctor.† Why do we do this? Hey, there are some very personal questions on these forms!† And you want your doctor to like you and not judge you.† You may be engaging in behaviors you know are risky to your health but donít want to face. You may have secrets youíve never told anybody before and donít feel like sharing now.† You may be too embarrassed to mention something.† You may be afraid your partner or your boss or your mother or your insurance company will find out something about you youíd rather they not know.† I hear you.

Does it really matter? Do you really need to tell your doctor the truth?† ĎFraid so. WebMD just interviewed me about this very topic, so I thought Iíd share the notes I made for my interview with them.† Here are some common things people donít tell their doctors and some thoughts on why itís important that we know.

  1. Youíre cheating on your partner. If youíre having an illicit affair, youíre probably going to great lengths to keep your secret, so why would you spill the beans to your doctor? Because you may be putting yourself and your partners at risk. Trust me. Itís much better to tell your doctor and nip a sexually-transmitted disease in the bud than to have your partner discover your affair when she winds up with chlamydia. If we know, we can get you tested and help protect you and your partners.
  2. Youíve had an abortion. Maybe your husband doesnít even know about that pregnancy you terminated back when you were in college. And you certainly donít want him finding out now. So does it really matter? Well, it depends. If youíre trying to get pregnant, yes. It gives your doctor very important information. We know the pipes worked once upon a time and actually improves the likelihood that youíll get pregnant when compared to someone who has never conceived before. But if youíre having trouble getting pregnant, itís possible that thereís scar tissue from the abortion.
  3. You drink too much, use illegal drugs, or are hooked on prescription meds. Your indulgences may be putting your body at more risk than you know. Even small amounts of alcohol increase your risk of breast cancer, while greater intake can put your liver, stomach, brain and many other organs at risk. And you donít have to be hooked on cocaine for it to cause a heart attack.† The more we know, the more we can educate you about how to live most vitally and keep your body healthy.

Related: 15 Medical Tests Every Woman Should Have

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Read more: Health, General Health, Gynecology, Obstetrics, Women's Health, , , , , , ,

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the†Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of†Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.† She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.† Lissa blogs at† and also created two online communities -† and† She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


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1:22PM PDT on Sep 5, 2011

People lie to their doctors because what they say becomes part of their medical records, which can be seen by their insurance company and their employers. And then can be used as a basis to be denied healthcare benefits and can cause them to be fired. Had I known this years ago there would definitely be things I would not have told my doctors

2:41AM PDT on Sep 5, 2011


7:01PM PDT on Sep 4, 2011

Some doctors do tend to be judgemental which is why we should all try to find ones who aren't. Thanks.

4:54AM PST on Feb 22, 2011

I think people often are afraid to be judged by their doctor (not saying I never had this problem too). That's why they don't want to talk. The other problem is they don't think their personal life can be linked to their health that much.

12:52PM PST on Feb 8, 2011

While you, Lissa, may have the knowledge to deal with anything that may come up, most MDs don't (and many can't get around their insecurities to refer out for what they don't know). In my experience, most are woefully uninformed about anything except their little niche. I agree with Julie Woodman who said above that she sees no need to to tell her physician about herbal and nutritional supplements she is taking as he knows nothing about them. The majority don't even know a truly reputable, unbiased source for information about these supplements. Show me a physician who is well-informed about these things and I'll show you a physician who has jumped ship to practice "alt med".

Imo, today it is unsafe to assume that your physician knows anything at all. One has to be living under a rock not to see all the deceitful acts of the pharmaceutical industry coming to light, especially regarding psychotropic drugs. But most physicians go on prescribing these drugs, even HRT, despite all the issues that have been publicized. Most of us have had to become our own physicians. I'd much rather err on myself than trust someone who puts her/himself forth as an "expert" err on me.

I love most of what you write. This piece just seemed too idealistic.

8:41AM PST on Jan 28, 2011

Noted. Thanks for the post

1:11AM PST on Jan 4, 2011

That's great advice. Thanks for putting it out there.

3:43PM PST on Jan 1, 2011

I don't go to doctors, haven't in years but if I ever do I'll remember your advice.

8:15AM PST on Dec 30, 2010

I have never lied to a doc about anything. Especially when I was a crazy teenager experimenting... If something was wrong with me, I wanted to know what it was for real! I don't really care what the doc thinks. I've been given some funny looks before, but I never felt judged. I'm a vegetarian now, in Texas, and I've yet to go to the doc. Thankfully, I'm much healthier now so I don't get sick anymore, but I still dread my yearly check up. A lot of people here aren't down with the meat free thing... Oh well, I'll go through doc after doc till I find one that's supportive.

7:57AM PST on Dec 30, 2010

It's important to trust the doctor, that's why there's a doctor-patient confidentiality...

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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Congrats to Mama T. I didn't feel the article was slanted. I'm omnivore and do like to eat vegan or…

I can go without eating meat!! There are many better sources of food to replace meat all together!!

Interesting stats, thank you.


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