Thinking about going to the doctor creates stress and anxiety for me. Actually going can bring on a panic attack. This has given me a reputation with doctors and creates a problem for me. I am torn between disclosing my anxiety diagnosis and trying to hide it — albeit hard.
Often times, having an anxiety disorder gets you the label of being difficult, “crazy” and delusional. The doctors somehow trace every symptom, even a broken arm, back to your anxiety. It took me years to find a specialist who took me seriously and believed that some of my physical symptoms were not manifestations of anxiety, but had actual physical causes.
I am aware that anxiety does manifest itself in the body in unusual and surprising ways, but that shouldn’t be cause for neglect of the patient. Sometimes physical illnesses are overlooked and not treated properly because a patient has a mental illness.
Doctors need to understand the needs of the patient and accommodate them to the best of their ability because that is why they became a doctor — to help and to heal. Not create more damage and harm. Sometimes they need a reminder.
If you are a doctor who has a patient with anxiety or any other mental health condition, please consider the following:
Understand we are people. We need a little extra kindness and compassion.We are already nervous and anxious about being there. Try to do whatever you can to create a relaxing environment.
Listen to what we have to say. When you don’t take us seriously or brush us off, you make us feel even more isolated and alone. We feel that we may never find someone who understands us. All we want is relief. If I tell you my stomach is constantly bothering me, order a CT scan or an actual test. Don’t tell me to take more anxiety meds and to try to relax. Your job is to explore all the possibilities and while anxiety might be one of them, it is not ALL of them.
Reassure us that you heard us and understand us. Explain things to us in a way that we can easily understand and let us participate in our treatment. You may know medicine, but we know our bodies.
Understand that what you write down in our chart will follow us to other specialists and doctors. If you write you think that we are nuts, that is most likely what other doctors will believe, too. This will prevent us from getting the care that we really need.
The bottom line is that people with anxiety also get sick in their bodies. People with mental illnesses also get physically sick. We need proper care. We deserve it. Please don’t use a mental health diagnosis to avoid doing your job well.
A special thank you to the few, but great doctors out there who have taken me seriously and explored all the options.