How do you cope with doctor’s office anxiety? It is very common to feel nervous when going to see the doctor. Whether it is for an annual physical or if you are going in to address specific symptoms, you are out of your normal environment and may be feeling a bit out of control. And if you are going to the doctor in order to find an explanation for symptoms you are having, you may have already tried to self-diagnose through google searches (which usually leads to more stress rather than relief). A combination of feeling out of control and uncertain about the future can lead to a hefty dose of anxiety. Whether you have an anxiety disorder or if a visit to a doctor’s office just makes you feel a bit uneasy, here are some simple strategies to practice at appointments.
While sitting in the waiting room, try to keep yourself distracted and your mind away from negative thoughts. Some negative thoughts that might come up for you may include fortune-telling or catastrophizing, where you are imagining the worst case scenario. Perhaps you are worried about a diagnosis or finding out the results of a test. Engage your mind by overwriting these thoughts with watching TV, reading a magazine, listening to a podcast, or playing a game on your phone. This can also be helpful for while you are getting a shot or having blood taken. Look away from the arm the doctor is working on and read or watch something on your phone to distract you.
Some people find it comforting to bring a loved one to a doctor’s appointment for moral support. They can be there to provide distracting conversation or to talk you through some of your fears. If you don’t have someone to go with you, it is also possible to enlist the support of the office staff. While the nurse is taking your blood you could ask her for reassurance or perhaps to tell you a story in order to help distract from what is happening.
Remind yourself that although you are feeling out of control, you are surrounded by trained medical professionals who are dedicating to maintaining your health and protecting you. Remind yourself that the appointment will soon be over and you can move on with the rest of your day. If you find yourself thinking that you won’t be able to survive the diagnosis, remind yourself that no matter what comes, you are resilient and have the ability to cope with it and address it.
After your appointment, treat yourself to some extra self-care and do something that brings you comfort and peace. Maybe that means going home to watch a movie, taking a nap, going out to eat, or spending some time with a loved one.
Medical appointments are not always easy on our stress levels, so try out these strategies to help alleviate some of the anxiety. The more you practice these skills and expose yourself to what feels anxiety-inducing, the stronger you will feel in your ability to cope.