Terrified to go to the doctor or hospital? Are you anxious about those checkups, a possible new diagnosis or being labeled crazy, or do you have a fear of needles or think you might get bad news? Is it time for you to get that physical or mental ouch taken care of, but you’re afraid?
Not sure what to do? You’re not alone. These are very common forms of anxiety that I have witnessed for years in my internal medicine practice, as well as in my psychiatry office. Even medical care givers have been known to be afraid of one thing or another, including needles. And often a new diagnosis or recurrence of an old diagnosis can be a major psychological blow to anyone.
However, without regular checkups that include the minimum blood pressure checks, cholesterol level follow-ups or blood sugar analysis, you may be leaving a physical condition untreated. Also, mental health is a No. 1 priority and any concerns should be shared with your doctor. Screening and referrals to a mental health provider can be lifesaving.
For example, the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail reported in 2011 that as many as 35,000 new mothers suffer in silence with postnatal depression each year out of the 70,000 who experience depression. Many of these new mothers are afraid to seek help because they’re worried that they’re a failure as a mother or their baby will be taken away. These new mothers are often afraid to seek help and struggle to get through day-to-day activities. Left untreated, the baby blues can last for months or years.
“KANGAROOS” is a fun, yet meaningful mnemonic device to think about your first visit and follow-up visits with your doctor or your mental health provider:
K: Keep a journal, notes or diary of your symptoms and questions for your medical provider.
A: Answer all the nurses’ or doctors’ questions and then some in your medical history, even referring to significant observations made by others. Report any physical and feeling changes, as well as those occurring between visits.
N: Never delay getting help. Never worry about anything appearing insignificant. Inform your doctor or mental health provider about any drugs you are taking, including herbal supplements, prescribed medications or otherwise. Be honest. What you don’t say could hurt your treatment plan or you.
G: Generate a workable, mutually agreed upon treatment plan with your doctor or mental health provider. Expect respect, compassion and support.
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A: Ask questions if you don’t understand something discussed with your doctor or mental health provider. Ask for clarifications such as, what is my main problem and what do I need to do?
R: Return respect and compassion to your medical team by keeping communications open. For example, call your doctor or mental health provider in non-emergency situations, if you feel you need changes to your treatment plan. In all emergency cases, call
O: Organize your routines to optimize your treatment plan. Enlist your family and friends to help you succeed. And let your doctor or mental health provider know what worked best for you and what didn’t.
O: Open your heart and mind to taking care of your health, both mentally and physically.
S: Stay on prescribed medications, even if you are feeling better. Schedule follow-up care and visits. Stay safe by following your treatment plan.
Kanga, the mother kangaroo from Winnie-the-Pooh, said to Tigger, “You got your bounce back.” A healthy and positive partnership with your doctor and mental health provider will put you well on your way to getting your bounce back, too.
Phillip Holman is a psychiatrist with Community Physician Group at Community Medical Center.