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

  1. You have sexual preferences you may wish to keep secret. Whether youíre a big fan of anal intercourse, a swinger, homosexual or bisexual, or love getting it on in a bunny suit, I promise I wonít judge you. But it will help me take better care of you. If I think youíre straight, I may be pushing you to take birth control you donít need. And if you love anal sex, you might be having bowel problems I can help with. But I canít help if I donít know.
  2. Youíre having problems in the bedroom. Maybe your libido has gone to hell, sex hurts, or youíre experiencing some other form of sexual dysfunction. Maybe you or your partner canít get it up. We think weíre supposed to be all-powerful, all the time, so many people wonít admit when theyíre having sexual difficulties. But owning your sexuality is part of Owning Pink and keeping your mojo alive and kicking.† Oftentimes, we doctors can help.
  3. Youíre pregnant and youíre not sure whose baby it is. Maybe youíre in a relationship but you fooled around the month you got pregnant.† You may be tempted not to tell your doctor so your partner doesnít find out.† But this could lead to serious repercussions for your pregnancies. Letís say your husbandís blood type is Rh-, as is yours. Which means that if your husband is the father, you wouldnít need the medication Rhogam, which is meant to keep you from making antibodies to your babyís potentially + blood type. But if your boyfriend is Rh+, youíll be needing that Rhogam. We docs need to know this stuff, or you might be unable to give birth to a living child in the future.
  4. Youíre leaking urine. You may think that urinary incontinence is just a natural part of aging, but itís not. And we can help. But only if you tell us whatís up down there.
  5. Youíre not taking your medication. Perhaps your doctor has recommended something that doesnít resonate with you. Youíre sure you can get your blood pressure down without pills or youíd rather skip that antidepressant. If we think youíre taking your medication when youíre not, it may throw us down this rabbit hole of diagnosis and treatment thatís completely off base. Tell us the truth. If the treatment weíve prescribed isnít right for you, let us help you find something that is.

So next time youíre filling out that form, think twice about fudging. If you donít feel comfortable putting something in writing, ask your doctor if you can tell her something in confidence when you see her in person.

Itís all part of owning your health. Face it. Deal with it. Accept that itís true or accept that you wish to change something. Ask for help if you need it. But donít lie to your doctor. Weíre here to help. I swear!

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Libby R.
Libby R.4 years ago

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

Ida J.
Ida J.4 years ago


Nimue Pendragon
Nimue Pendragon4 years ago

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

Gabriela B.
Gabriela B.4 years ago

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.

Catherine Creel
Catherine Creel4 years ago

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.

Ann Lafave
Ann L.4 years ago

Noted. Thanks for the post

Petra Luna
Petra Luna4 years ago

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

Ashley D.
Ashley L.4 years ago

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

Jennifer Martin
Jennifer M.4 years ago

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.

Manuela C.
Manuela C.4 years ago

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