How Can I Prepare Myself, Mentally and Emotionally, for a Doctor’s Visit?
Harsimran Singh, PhD, responds
A doctor’s visit is the perfect opportunity to advocate for your diabetes health. After all, you live with diabetes 24-7. Use this time to engage with your physician, discuss your successes, and team up to resolve any issues.
What to Know
A visit with your doctor is dedicated time to discuss your diabetes care and plan ahead so you’ll meet your health care goals. While it’s important to prepare for the logistical aspects of this visit—bringing health insurance information, along with a list of medications and supplements—don’t forget about mental preparedness, too.
An often-overlooked aspect of a doctor’s visit is whether you’re psychologically prepared. It’s not uncommon for people to arrive at the office expecting judgment. If you think your doctor will be disappointed in your self-care efforts, you may walk in feeling shame, guilt, anxiety, distress, and/or fear. In extreme cases, people may skip the appointment altogether. Such negative emotions prevent you from engaging in a positive, action-oriented conversation with your doctor. Make sure your health care provider is aware of your struggles by being open and honest about your self-management efforts and willing to ask for support with any significant barriers.
You may also underestimate how your health beliefs and emotions impact your overall experience of the visit. If you are dissatisfied with your doctor’s treatment recommendations, for instance, or if you do not feel respected or heard, you are likely to mentally and emotionally “check out” of the discussion and miss advice or recommendations that may be critical to your care.
It’s in your best interest to initiate a conversation about such concerns. This helps your doctor better understand how his or her behavior affects you, helps clarify any misunderstandings, and allows for improved, honest communication.
Contrarily, if you have a strong collaboration with your physician and believe that he or she is clinically and emotionally responsive to your diabetes needs, you will likely be engaged and proactive during the visit. Effective communication is at the heart of any provider-patient relationship and is a shared responsibility.
Find Out More
Health care visits can be emotionally draining. Start reducing your stress before the visit by arriving on time (or slightly early). That way, you won’t feel rushed.
Doctors are notoriously short on time, which can be a major source of frustration. Make the most of your visits by being prepared and ready to focus on what’s most important. A day or two before your visit, prepare a list of things related to your diabetes care and management that worry you, such as a fear of nighttime low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) or medication side effects, and bring it to your visit.
Show your doctor the list at the start of the visit so you can get the most out of your time together. And don’t skip talking about mental health concerns with your doctor—overcoming them can lead to feeling better, in your mind and body.
You and your doctor make up the most important partnership for your diabetes care. By being prepared and engaged during visits, you help your health care providers assist you more effectively in your daily diabetes efforts. Be open and honest about your diabetes management, and do not hesitate to ask for help, if needed. You deserve it.
Harsimran Singh, PhD, is a health psychologist and a clinical research scientist at the Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, California.