embarrassed man covering face with hand

Very few people look forward to their annual physical, but some people find a trip to the doctor's office more nerve-racking than others do. Some research has suggested that men are embarrassed to visit a doctor for about 75 percent of common health conditions. Furthermore, 80 percent of patients worry that the doctor may perceive their concerns to be a waste of time. This discourages many people from scheduling needed appointments, even for routine physicals.

The BBC reports that men may struggle more with embarrassment at the doctor's office than women. According to a BBC Health report, men have a harder time asking for help in general, even from medical professionals. Women tend to have less difficulty accessing healthcare and be more comfortable with regular physical exams. However, many women still feel nervous speaking to a doctor about certain topics, such as sexual health.

Are you among the many people who feel nervous or embarrassed to see a doctor? Whether it's been years since your last physical or you have specific health concerns, it's important to work through your apprehensions. Whatever your fears, try to focus on moving beyond your embarrassment and put your health first.

Understand Your Doctor's Role
The first step to getting over your embarrassment is to remember that you are not alone. Your primary care physician (PCP) has many other patients. This means it's likely that your PCP has encountered people with the same concerns that you have. Your doctor will not mock or laugh at you for asking questions - even about intimate issues. Instead, your doctor is mostly likely to address your concerns and help determine the best course of action for managing your health. By being proactive about attending your annual physicals, you may even help your doctor catch a health condition before it becomes serious.

Write It Down
If you know that you will struggle to talk to your doctor about your concerns, try some alternative methods:

  • Take a note to your doctor that you've already written at home describing the problem.
  • Find out if your doctor is available via email, and if so, send your concern electronically before your appointment so that you won't have to verbalize it in person.
  • If you feel more comfortable talking to a nurse or other member of your healthcare team, ask one of these team members to make a note of your concern. They can share this note with your doctor before your appointment.

Schedule Your Checkup
The most important thing you can do to overcome embarrassment about visiting your doctor is simply to schedule a checkup, even if you don't feel sick. An annual physical gives you a regular opportunity to attend to your health and raise any medical concerns you may have. You will also start to build a relationship with your doctor. This may make it easier to start conversations about sensitive issues in the future.

Learning to Open Up
The first part of a doctor's appointment is often the toughest. You may worry that you won't know how to start a conversation about your health concerns. Keep in mind that many doctors will help you along if they notice that you seem to want to talk about something. According to the BBC, most doctors have experience "reading the body language" of people who are hesitating to bring something up. Your doctor may try to provide you with lead-ins to discuss something more personal. If you notice your doctor trying to help you with this approach, meet them halfway and share your concern at the first prompting.

HealthAhead Hint: Don't Take Chances with Your Health
You can overcome your embarrassment about visiting a doctor by focusing on what is truly important: Your health. While it's common to feel embarrassed about discussing certain issues with your doctor, there are ways to ease the discomfort and communicate effectively during your annual physical. Over time, you may start to develop an ongoing relationship with your doctor, who can become a trusted advisor. You'll feel more comfortable opening up, and more confident knowing that your health is in professional hands.