Very few people look forward to their annual physical, but some people find a trip to the doctor’s office to be more nerve-racking than others. Some research suggests that men are embarrassed to visit a doctor for a majority of common health conditions. Additionally, many people worry that their doctor will perceive their concerns to be a waste of time. This can discourage people from scheduling appointments they need, even 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. Women tend to have less difficulty accessing health care and are more accustomed to regular physical exams due to childbearing and the need for contraception.

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 putting your health first.

The first step to getting over your embarrassment is to remember that you’re 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 won’t mock or laugh at you for asking questions, even about intimate issues. Instead, your doctor is more likely to address your concerns and help determine the best course of action for managing your health. By being proactive about attending routine physicals, you may even help your doctor catch a health condition before it becomes serious.

If you know that you’ll struggle to talk to your doctor about your concerns, try some alternative methods:

  • Write a note at home that describes your problem and take it to your appointment.
  • Find out if your doctor is available via email or messaging through your electronic medical record. 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 those team members to make a note of your concern. They can share this note with your doctor before your appointment.

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. A preventative health exam gives you the opportunity to attend to your health and raise any medical concerns you may have before you develop a problem. You also’ll start to build a relationship with your doctor. This may make it easier to start conversations about sensitive issues in the future.

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. Doctors are trained in 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.

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 visit. 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.