Invisible Diseases and Judgment. Part 2.

Since we talked about judgment in the last post, this topic also seemed fitting:

Another issue that comes up regarding judgment is from medical providers. I’ve heard some horror stories. I’ve had patients tell me it took years for a doctor to believe there was a problem – a real medical diagnosis (no, it wasn’t in their head)! Unfortunately, some providers have exposure to a lot of drug seekers or malingerers. Malingerers are people who are faking it but are seeking some benefit from having a medical problem (like being admitted to the ER so they can enjoy hospital hamburgers). When this happens a lot, it makes sense why a provider may be judgmental.

So, what can you do when you feel judged by providers?

  1. Be prepared for medical appointments. Sometimes, patients become really anxious before going to see a doctor or medical provider. They may think something like, “What if the doc doesn’t believe in my pain and won’t treat it? What if s/he will accuse me of drug seeking? What if I can’t get my point across and they don’t understand me? What if they just tell me I need to focus on treating my anxiety and then my issues for pain aren’t addressed?” Wow, so many questions. So, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself:
  2. Recognize you will likely only have 15 minutes with the doctor. You have to be succinct and clear. Be realistic about what you can discuss in that time frame.
  3. Create a ranked priority list. Write down everything you need to say to the provider (when you are calm). This will help you to adequately explain the problem and your needs.
  4. Bring an advocate. A family member or friend can ask questions, explain symptoms, and take notes for you.
  5. Take a deep breath and use self-talk. Tell yourself that you’ve got this. You can advocate for yourself and clearly explain the situation.
  6. Remember, you can always schedule a follow-up appointment. This is not the end-all-be-all. You can try to schedule another appointment earlier or be flexible & meet with a PA or nurse practitioner if the doctor isn’t available.
  7. Ask yourself if this is the best provider for you and do you have any other options? Can you work with this person or is the working relationship too far gone? Can you talk to the provider about your concerns regarding judgment?

Being in the field of psychology, I have a new respect for individuals who suffer from an invisible disease. These diagnoses can be hard to diagnose, treat, and understand. But, even with an invisible disease, one cannot stop living (look at Lady Gaga!). Yes, you may need to grieve, and that’s normal. But, it’s time to take a stand and empower yourself.Join a facebook group, join a pain app (e.g., My Chronic Pain Team, PainScale, Manage My Pain, Pain Management Guidelines, ReachOut), follow a blog, and educate those around you. It’s time for our communities to have more compassion.

Best wishes,