4 Ways to Overcome Anxiety and Learn to Love Your Doctor Visits

Fear keeps many people from going to the doctor — fear of the unknown, fear of a bad diagnosis, fear of feeling vulnerable, etc. But for about 3{54c12dad2cc2b53ae830e39915b1a3e70288dbcbbeb8bbf8395437c5dc3c512c} of the population, going to the doctor is an actual phobia. Whatever the reason, fear of physicians causes far too many people to take a reactive, hands-off approach to maintaining their health.

Before I had a major health scare, I was one of those people. I made every excuse to avoid visiting the doctor. I was a 37-year-old CEO with young kids. I didn’t have any chronic or debilitating conditions. I would have plenty of time to prioritize my health later in life.

I ended up in the hospital with chest pains and was confronted with reality: I wasn’t taking care of myself and was on the same path as my father, who had his first heart attack at 45. Over the next few years, I did everything I could to improve my lifestyle. I changed my diet, lost 40 pounds, and ran three marathons. But one of the things I’m most proud of is my commitment to learning more about health.

Becoming a Better Patient

When I started showing up to doctors’ appointments prepared, I became a better patient. Doctors spent more time working to improve my treatments with me. I developed the confidence I needed to press them to offer a more proactive framework. With time, doctors became my allies rather than something to fear.

Ultimately, doctors want their patients to be healthy. When we overcome our fears and become active participants in our care, it motivates doctors to go the extra mile. They see that we’re taking our health seriously, making the time it takes to collaborate on a health plan productive and fruitful.

This level of personalization can help society figure out how to overcome fear of doctors and hospitals, how to reduce anxiety at the doctor’s office, and how to improve the doctor-patient relationship. It all boils down to education and people actively participating in their care.

The Biggest Hurdle

Overcoming the fear of doctors is a process. Past traumas can get in the way, and so can that nagging feeling that doctors are judging you. It’s important to remember that they’re not — they’re simply determining the best treatment options based on the results.

There are ways to curtail anxiety about going to the doctor, however, and the following suggestions are great places to start:

1. Shop around.

While the scientific foundations for different medical specialties are virtually the same, the approach to care is not— especially when it comes to the doctor-patient relationship. An osteopathic doctor (D.O.) takes a more holistic approach to managing an individual’s health, while an allopathic doctor (M.D.) focuses on the acute treatments of illness and disease. For some people, a more holistic approach can help reduce any anxiety about going to the doctor. Others might feel more confident with the “traditional” route. Shop around, feel out different doctors, and then decide which direction is best for you.

2. Don’t go alone.

Bringing a friend or family member to the exam or just asking someone to sit in the waiting room can help minimize anxiety about going to the doctor. A spouse or a trusted friend are the most obvious options because they can make the visit feel less impersonal while curbing any fears. After bringing a supportive loved one along with you a few times, you might be ready to try a visit by yourself.

3. Build a doctor-patient relationship.

Although physicians are busy, and the U.S. healthcare system faces shortages, some practices are taking proactive steps to personalize care. One Medical, for example, caps the number of patients each doctor sees in a day. This allows for a more personal approach to treatment, giving doctors the chance to create a more effective health plan that should reduce the number of patient visits. It’s also a great way to build trust between patient and doctor. Consider visiting a similar facility. If one isn’t available near you, work toward establishing a doctor-patient relationship — or at least find a physician open to this approach.

4. Improve your health literacy.

Making health awareness a general approach to personal care is one of the easiest ways to quell anxiety about going to the doctor. When I started visiting the doctor and sharing the research I’d done in my own time, we were able to discuss whether it was relevant to my situation. It demystified what was going on with my health and what was happening during my appointments.

Remember, every doctor takes an oath to help patients. Taking a minute to get to know the human behind the white coat makes it easier to see that they’re not someone to fear — doctors are there to help keep us as healthy as possible.

Munjal Shah is the co-founder and CEO of Health IQ, a life insurance agency that rewards people with healthy lifestyles, like runners, cyclists, weightlifters, and vegetarians. After working as a technology entrepreneur for the first part of his career, he started Health IQ to improve the health of the world by celebrating those who practice healthy lifestyles.


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