The nine common lies you should stop telling your doctor
Many of us tell fibs when we're sitting across from our GP.
Sometimes when we lie, it's to save face and avoid extra embarrassment. Sometimes we lie because we don't think the doctor needs to know, and sometimes we lie purely out of habit. What are the nine common lies you should stop telling your doctor?
'IT'S NOTHING' OR 'I'M SURE IT'S SERIOUS'
According to research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, lies in the patient-doctor relationship are common. One of key issues? Patients minimising or exaggerating their symptoms. Either because you don't want to be fussed over and would like a "quick fix", or because you've got something that might not warrant concern, but you want dealt to as if it were serious.
I ONLY DRINK OCCASIONALLY
Many doctors' questionnaires touch on alcohol consumption, and most people lie about it when it comes to choosing a number. "Five or six drinks a week" might sound about right if you're a social drinker, but in reality it might be closer to 20 drinks. You're not honest, of course, because you're afraid the doctor will judge you – which isn't necessarily true. Believe it or not, doctors really are there to help without bias.
I DON'T TAKE ANY OTHER MEDICATIONS
This common lie comes up often when people see secondary care professionals, or when they don't think something available without a prescription is relevant to primary care GPs. Some people lie (or forget) about medications we take occasionally (like sleeping aids), herbal medicines (like St John's Wort), and even vitamins. These will often interact with other drugs, however, and need to be noted.
I DON'T KNOW WHEN MY SYMPTOMS APPEARED
When your doctor asks how long a problem has been plaguing you for, many people downplay it so they don't appear like they have "waited too long". If a rash, a pain, a spot, or any ailment has been apparent for months (or years), you need to say so. It will enable your doctor to get a fuller picture of how serious – or not serious – a problem is.
I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY I'M NOT SEEING RESULTS
Many patients who struggle with extra weight, high blood sugar, or diabetes will lie and tell their doctors they're keeping to their prescribed diets and exercise regimens, and thus don't understand why they're not losing weight or seeing levels drop. The reality is, it can be very difficult to be strict with yourself, and easier to fib so to not appear like you're not following orders. If you don't tell the truth here, your doctor may start testing for underlying causes that you know aren't there.
I ALWAYS HAVE SAFE SEX
Many people lie when they get STI check-ups, saying they always practice safe sex. The reality is, things happen in the heat of the moment and sometimes safety isn't your top priority. Your doctor (or any medical professional) needs to know about any unsafe sexual activity because it will dictate what tests you will need.
I'VE NEVER DONE DRUGS
Most people will lie about current or past recreational drug taking, because they don't want to be put in the "substance abuse" box, or they fear legal ramifications. Your doctor is bound by confidentiality and their primary responsibility is your good health, so drug use shouldn't be lied about as disclosure will result only in better care.
I'M GOING ON HOLIDAY/I'VE LOST MY MEDS
Particularly relevant to those who are prescribed drugs for chronic pain, some patients may lie to their doctor to get an extra "stash". They might claim to have lost their prescriptions, or tell their doctor they're going overseas and need enough medication to cover an extended trip. This can be dangerous in terms of addiction, but also because over-use can cause drug resistance.
I DON'T SKIP MY MEDICATIONS
Conversely, some people don't like taking the drugs they are prescribed – perhaps because of side effects, cost, or because they think they're "doing ok" and can cut back – but they tell their doctor they maintain their prescribed dose. Medications don't work if you don't take them as prescribed, however. It's important to tell your doctor if you stop taking or reduce your medications because an alternative option – which may or may not be other drugs – is usually out there for you.
Lee Suckling has a masters degree specialising in personal health reporting. Do you have a health topic you'd like Lee to investigate? Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with Dear Lee in the subject line.