You probably have a long list of things you'd rather do than see your doctor. We feel you; doctor's appointments can be incredibly stressful. But here's the thing: They don't have to be.
One way to make your annual checkup or urgent care visit go more smoothly is to clearly communicate your questions and concerns, but how much talking should you really do—and what, if anything, is off-limits? We talked to some top doctors to find out which phrases they don't want you to utter—and what you should say instead.
(Want to pick up some healthier habits? Sign up to get daily healthy living tips delivered straight to your inbox!)
DON'T say: "I'm sure it's..."
We all love Dr. Google. But most doctors cringe when they hear you say, "I looked up my symptoms online, and..." said Dr. Elizabeth Lyster, a California-based OB-GYN. Not only could you freak yourself out by reading all the super-scary things that might be wrong with you, but you might actually make your doctor's job harder, said cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, director of women's heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and Go Red for Women physician spokesperson.
"Whatever you researched online, keep it to yourself," Steinbaum said.
Doctors have a certain protocol they go through in order to determine a diagnosis—they consider your symptoms, family history, any medications you're on—and sharing your self-diagnosis could muddy the waters.
DON'T say: "It's probably just stress."
Sure, stress can make you sick, but if you downplay your symptoms, your doc is less likely to take them seriously. You'll also want to avoid phrases like "but it might just be in my head," advised Steinbaum.
"If you say, 'I have headaches, but I might be anxious' or 'it might be stress,' all the doctor hears is that you have headaches caused by stress," Steinbaum said.
DON'T say: "I'm sorry I wasted your time."
It's your doctor's job to take care of you, and there's nothing wrong with leaving a checkup—or even the emergency room—with a relatively clean bill of health. If something doesn't feel right, get it checked out. It's better to go to the ER with chest pain (or just a feeling that something isn't right) and come out with heartburn meds than to stay home and have a heart attack, Steinbaum said.
DON'T say: "Surely you've heard of..."
It's totally fine to come to your appointment armed with questions about that arthritis medication you saw advertised on TV or a new study you read about, but don't assume your doctor is as looped in as you are.
"Sadly, doctors aren't always the most up-to-date on things because they just don't have the time," Lyster said.
If you want to discuss an article you read, take a moment to print it out and bring it to your appointment. Heard about a new drug that just hit the market? Bring along a one-page write-up about it (copy and paste from the Internet—you don't have to write it yourself).
"You've got to have a way to get the information to a doctor in a quick fashion," Lyster said.
DON'T say: "Aren't you the expert?"
News flash: Doctors are human, too. Yes, they went to medical school and treat patients every single day, but putting all of your faith in one person can be dangerous.
"It's a tricky balance between respecting the doctor and not thinking that they have all the answers on earth," Lyster said.
And while we hope your doctor is competent, you still need to take an active role in your health. If she suggests a regimen you'll never realistically stick with or a medication you're allergic to, speak up ASAP. Medical professionals deserve your respect—but they should respect your input as well.
"If you don't feel like you can talk to your doctor, you need to get another doctor," Steinbaum said.