Doctor Anxiety and "PA"tients

Why is it that Patient Anonymous becomes so stressed when she has to see doctors these days? No matter who it is I need to visit, first thing in the morning, my pulse quickens, my stomach churns and my brain just seems to lose all focus.

I have a dentist appointment today and I’m just a mess. I don’t have a fear of dentists and my dentist is a really nice man. And so are all the hygienists. My original family dentist who I saw since childhood was awesome so I never had any bad experiences.

And I don’t have a problem with doctors. I love you! I idolize you! I don’t put you on pedestals as I understand that you are all human but I do admire you and have great respect for you. In fact, I am willing to put up with a lot. You might tick me off if we disagree on my treatment or if you screw up but in the goal of working together to make me well, I’ll persevere. Believe me, one specialist almost drove me to litigation (not against him) for making a “boo boo” but once he realized how badly he’d messed up, he did try to remedy the situation. It was too late, however. Still, did I take it out on him? No. It wouldn’t have mattered, anyway. He would have gotten away with a slap on the wrist at worst. Still, I suffered greatly so maybe that’s one reason I’m a little nervous.

I’ve had some other bad experiences.

I had no physician when I was in university so I went to the first person I could see in the clinic there when I fell ill with some infection. He invited me to his private practice. My Bipolar Disorder was in its infancy and not yet diagnosed so I was just beginning to act out in many ways, one of which was hypersexuality. This did not bode well with him, it seems. It did not make sense to him that a self-proclaimed “lesbian” would suddenly need “the morning after pill” or emergency contraception in a flaming panic one day. I was never treated the same after.

I once went to an OB/GYN many years ago for recurrent UTI infections. When he examined me, he tapped my clitoris a few times and asked, “Can you feel that?” I was stunned. That had never happened before. I didn’t know what to say or do so I simply answered, “Yes.”

I have since learned that this is not part of a standard pelvic examination. I don’t think it’s part of a “non-standard” pelvic examination! Someone, please correct me if I am wrong. Then we moved forward with catheterization for output flow and I screamed! That was probably the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life. I felt really bad for the other women awaiting any procedures after me. He also prescribed me a little too much Valium/Diazepam along with my antibiotics. I was a little wary of OB/GYNs after that.

And then there are some of the problems that I’ve experienced with Endoscopies that I blogged about here. Thankfully my new Gastroenterologist has assured me that he can knock me out with a general for any procedures he needs to do from this point forward.

Finally, I managed to escape the clutches of a very unhealthy relationship with my Family Practitioner that I had been seeing for years. I wrote about it here. It also talks a little bit about my fear of doctors as “authority figures.” But not much. Just that I have that fear; I really don’t know why.

So maybe I’ve answered my own question here? I’m not really sure. I’ve finally found a new Family Practitioner but the relationship is still new and I’m still being lined up with a lot of new specialists so it’s all rather daunting. I’ve worked on this in therapy but I still haven’t managed to conquer my fear and anxiety over “dealing” with physicians. I know that they are relationships that I will always need to have, however. I don’t need to be treated with “kid gloves” per se but I do need, I guess, certain types of doctors that will be kind, caring, patient, intelligent, careful, willing to work collaboratively and treat me with respect. Is that a lot to ask?

  1. Anonymous

    To answer your last question first, NO! That’s what gets my goat when I see and hear so many horror stories about my professional colleagues. AAaargghhhhh! I need a largeish G&T and a room service dinner to digest this one.
    10th attempt at blogger grrrrrr


  2. Anonymous

    You thought I was exxagerating…nooooooo! It was 12th attempt by the time I succeded


  3. Patient Anonymous

    Sorry that you are still experiencing ridiculous problems with Blogger and still having to log in as an Anonymous user. That is DUMB. I wish I could fix it but alas.

    Hope you enjoy/ed your bevvie and dinner?

    I’m glad that you understand and I’m not a little out of my mind on this one? Sometimes it’s hard to get out of one’s head and you wonder whether or not you’re imagining things. When Doctor X just sort of pushes you out of the room and *poof* you’re left standing there in some kind of dust-ridden haze it can be difficult to know for sure. And as one who has doubted herself all her life…well, again, dealing with authority figures has been hard for me.

    I’m older and smarter now but a lot more nervous. I’m going to be an absolute wreck for my two, yes two new psych consults coming up in the relatively near future. Blech.

    And thanks for yourperseverance in commenting! A lot of other people might have given up?




  4. Michelle

    I just found your blog and enjoy what I’ve seen.

    As far as the bad experiences with doctors go, you aren’t alone. I just think that it makes the good ones that much more precious.


  5. alan

    I followed you home from Deb’s because I’m more than a bit smitten with the girl in your icon…I hope you don’t mind!

    My Mom has MS among her other problems, and a few years ago was going through some really freaky sexual episodes (she was in her early 70’s). It turned out that the “itch” she was trying to scratch was being caused by a UTI, and when that was cured she really didn’t have any feeling “there” anymore!

    Not that I ever wanted to know…she put a lot of things on me through those episodes I’m still trying to put behind me!

    It’s nice to meet you!



  6. Patient Anonymous

    Hi michelle: Thanks for “finding me” and I’m happy that you are enjoying yourself here *grin* I couldn’t agree with you more about bad experiences making the good doctors stand out as stellar examples. Hang on to them if you can find them!

    Hey alan:HAHAHA! Welcome! No, I don’t mind at all! I was wondering when *someone* would finally recognize the awesome Faye Valentine. As you can obviously tell, I love her too (and all the other characters in the series–it’s my favourite.)

    Hats off to you for supporting your Mom through all of that. I hope it wasn’t too difficult. I know it can be a little unpleasant if you aren’t “into” body stuff (like a geek like me?) but it sounds like you did okay?

    Nice to meet you both.


  7. ~Just Michelle~

    That is the very LEAST that you should ask.

    People have the right to feel safe with their doctors and to understand everything about thier own health without trepidation OR intimidation.


  8. Patient Anonymous

    Thanks for your comments ~just michelle~. I really appreciate your support and thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again.



  9. difficultpt

    That is exactly why I try to stay away from doctors . . . :o/


  10. Patient Anonymous

    Hey difficultpt: Eek! It sounds like you’ve had some bad experiences? I’ve been trying to get around to reading your blog more–I’m sure there’s stuff there?

    I was always “taught” that doctors “knew best” (at least when I was very small) but then the entire absentee parenting thing took over so there was kind of no one to guide me at all in terms of my health care needs. I guess some part of what I learned when very young stayed with me as it usually does. Young minds soak up everything.

    Anyway, I guess that might be a little bit behind my “white coat syndrome” as I called it. Sort of, “Respect MY authority!!!”

    I think I know or at least hope that all doctors aren’t really like this (haha) but when something has been ingrained, it’s hard to “deprogram” it from your brain.


  11. Kim

    The doctors you are looking for are out there – sometimes it just takes awhile to find them.

    And you are not asking the impossible! : )


  12. Patient Anonymous

    Hi kim: Thanks for your comment. I am still searching and hopefully I’ll find them!


  13. drytears

    Wow…. I know exactly how you feel when it come to doctors.

    The ones that I’ve run in to the most problems with have tended to be male, and now I find that same fear arising with my male teacher this semester.

    I’ve had on NP in neurology whom I absouletly loved she was AMAZING, unfortuneatly she quit to teach :)

    Good luck in your future with all of your doctors!


  14. Patient Anonymous

    Hi drytears, interesting name by the way! I guess it’s nice, well not nice to know that I’m not alone. A NP in neurology! Wow, that sounds intriguing… My neuro frustrates me to no end! I’d trade him in for a NP in a second! Oops…did I just write that *grin*

    I recently decided to go with a female FP as I’ve only ever seen men and I thought it might make a difference. I try not to practise gender bias but perhaps with a FP or primary care physician, I thought that it might be time for a change. I know that with specialists I may not be able to be so choosy.

    Good luck with your future docs too–and with your teacher. I know the feelings of intimidation can seem really overwhelming at times but if you can just try to tackle them head on, sometimes after the fact, you’ll see that things weren’t so bad after all or as you anticipated. I know my anxiety gets the better of me so very often. It’s one of the hardest parts of dealing with our disorders (I had a peek and I see you are dx’d with unipolar depression.)

    Hang in there and thanks for commenting.


  15. drytears

    I now an always trying to a female doctor, it just make me a bit more comfortable (I know this is a bad habit to get into, but it helps me now).

    I was just suprised to find this follow through to a teacher, but I just keep reminding myself that this teacher came highly recommended.

    And actually now I beleive the docs are changing their dx of depression to bipolar…. at least thats the way my psychiatrist is making it feel.


  16. Patient Anonymous

    Well drytears, some women do feel more comfortable with female doctors and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it may be more common than you and I(?) both think. It may be personal preference, it may be due to some bad experiences, I don’t know. I guess we’d have to speak to all the women involved?

    I’m trying to think of some of the teachers or professors that I’ve had and if that has impacted my relationships with them. I’ve had both good and bad experiences with both male and female. I suppose if this person comes with good references, then I guess you can just try and keep an open mind?
    Perhaps focus on the subject material and not the person teaching it? Is there a TA for the course tutorials? Perhaps you might relate better to him/her?

    I was originally diagnosed with Unipolar Depression too. Try not to be too frightened if it looks like your diagnosis might be changing to Bipolar. That doesn’t necessarily mean something bad. At the very least, it’s just a “label” or a name and at the very most, it’s the correct diagnosis and can hopefully lead to the right treatment and the reduction of you symptoms.

    I struggled for years until I finally figured out that something just wasn’t right. I waltzed right in and said, “I think I’m Bipolar,” and that was that. Several meds (anticonvulsants) later and I managed to get thankfully back on track and much more functional.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions!


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    […] back to stuttering and stress/anxiety. The absolute worse is when she’s dealing with doctors. She generally loses eye contact and sometimes sounds like a babbling, stammering, […]


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    […] I used to suffer from unbelievable “Doctor Anxiety,” and I even blogged about it here. Also, funnily enough, the links within that post take you back to my Blogger blog that is still […]


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