Hi, I’m Shelley and I have doctor anxiety.
What? You’ve never heard of it?It’s more than just having your blood pressure go sky high every time you’re at the doctor (yes, that happens to me). It happens when you’ve been told so many times by doctors that you’re a hypochondriac or you’re depressed that you stop going to the doctor when new issues with your health come up. And it can be a huge problem.
If you want to read the long version of my story, here it is. The short version is that I got sick, went to dozens of doctors that told me I was crazy, and then finally got diagnosed after a year and a half. The time I spent undiagnosed and sick basically disabled me for life, thanks to doctors not listening. That year and a half that I spent being told I was crazy, plus all the doctors since that didn’t believe my diagnosis affected me. I hate going to doctors and I don’t trust them to listen, so I put off medical problems in the hopes they will go away. And unfortunately that backfires.I got myself into trouble recently. I was in a lot of pain, and I could tell my body wasn’t working right, but I didn’t want to go see a doctor. I was convinced they would pat me on the head and send me home with instructions to take Tylenol so I suffered for 3 weeks knowing that something wasn’t right. Until the pain got so bad that I started violently throwing up and I was convinced I was going to die. I found out I had a kidney stone that was so big it was stuck, which also caused a kidney infection and more. It was a problem big enough to be admitted to the hospital, and then I had to have surgery. Turns out it was a serious complication and the doctors all took me very seriously. Whoops.
I am not the only one with potentially dangerous doctor anxiety. It turns out there really is something called “white coat syndrome” which can be found in as much as 20 % of the population. For most patients at most it involves high blood pressure at the doctors office, but for people like me it is much more serious. We delay potentially life saving medical treatment out of fear. I should have gone in when I started hurting. The end result would have been the same, but I could have saved myself three extra weeks of pain and suffering and a late night ER visit. The fact is though that this is the very real result of having a history of being badly treated by doctors.
There’s no easy answer to this problem. In an ideal world all doctors would not be jerks and would treat their patients like actual human beings, but that’s not realistic. For me I have learned that in the future I need to trust my body and my instincts that something is wrong, even if I can’t get a doctor to believe me. No more giving up just because a doctor blows me off. From now on I’m going to keep trying until I get answers or I go broke trying.