The Mighty Logo

7 Ways I Manage the Anxiety and Stress of Doctor Appointments

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Many folks with chronic illnesses have a really vast number of doctor appointments throughout their lifetimes. Along the way to building our tight network of doctors who are informed, caring and supportive, we sometimes run across ones who don’t fit that bill. Perhaps these doctors are just having a bad day or maybe they don’t have a lot of people skills. Maybe these doctors have had bad patient experiences. But the net result is that on the day we visit them they aren’t nice, caring or supportive.

It took 30 years from onset of symptoms until my diagnosis. As I have a rare disease, my symptoms were discounted many times and I experienced a lot of rudeness, dismissiveness and unhelpful suggestions. What I discovered is that these experiences have led to a lot of doctor visit anxiety.

This anxiety is unhelpful. Although it does lead to me generally being very well prepared and rehearsed for my doctor appointments, it also causes me to forget things, avoid making appointments and not fully disclose my symptoms until a bond of trust has been created. And it’s stressful. As anyone with chronic illness knows, stress is the enemy. And anything which gets in the way of being healthy is something I work to fix. This is a tough one.

Here are some of the things I do to help manage this stress:

  1. Clear my schedule on appointment day so it’s the only stressor I have.
  2. Build time in before my appointment to do something relaxing, like reading a good novel with a nice cup of tea.
  3. Ensure everything is set out for my appointment the night before, including paperwork, purse and clothing. The less I have to run around looking for things, the more calm I am.
  4. Distract myself in the waiting room with a novel or a game.
  5. During the appointment, be willing to take a breath and tell the doctor I need a moment to gather my thoughts.
  6. After the appointment, do something calm and enjoyable, such as an adult coloring book. I find this focuses my mind on something easy while the subconscious deals with the underlying anxiety.
  7. If that isn’t enough (for some appointments, such as cavity fillings, I need more help than these provide), then I use a doctor-prescribed, short-acting anxiety pill.

Other suggestions I have heard are:

  1. Visual meditation
  2. Chanting mantras
  3. Using music to manage emotion

The important thing is removing obstacles to being healthy and getting the care you need.

What tactics do you use? I’ll be looking forward to reading your comments below.

Getty Image by Wavebreakmedia

Originally published: December 12, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home