Lies You Need to Stop Telling Your Doctor

Medical Exam


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Medical Exam

Honesty Is the Best (Health Care) Policy

The patient-doctor relationship is confidential, critical and sacred — and it can't work without trust. Lying to a health-care provider makes the doctor's job harder and could potentially jeopardize the health of the patient, yet people do it all the time. Some lie out of embarrassment over subjects like sex, stigma with issues like depression, shame about behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse, or even to convince themselves that they’re leading a healthier life than they actually are. No matter the reason, honesty is truly the best policy in the doctor's office, so avoid these common fibs.

Related: Things You Should Never Say to Your Doctor

Whiskey on the Rocks
Jonathan Austin Daniels/istockphoto

I Don’t Drink That Much

How many drinks a patient consumes per week is one of the most common medical exam questions — and the answers patients give are often gross exaggerations or outright lies. Some lie about their drinking because they don't want to disappoint their doctors. Others may not want to endure yet another perceived lecture from a concerned party. Others simply might not recognize their drinking as a problem. Regardless of the reason, heavy drinking can lead to a host of complications that doctors might overlook or misdiagnose if deceived by indulging patients.

Related: Don't Believe These Myths About Alcohol

Prescription Pills

I Don’t Do Drugs

According to Roswell Park Cancer Center, more than one patient in 10 lies about recreational drug use, with younger patients being the most likely to conceal a drug habit from a physician. Like binge drinking, recreational drug use comes with a stigma — but it's also illegal. That fact can make patients even more likely to hide their drug use from their doctors. Some don't want that information in their medical records, others worry about their insurance or employment status and others are simply embarrassed. Either way, drug users do themselves a disservice when they keep their doctors in the dark. By doing so, they risk misdiagnosis of related ailments and could wind up with prescriptions they don't need. Perhaps most importantly, their doctors could offer them advice on how to get sober if they understood the nature of their patients' addictions.

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Young man running over the puddle by the garages

I Exercise Regularly

You don't want to disappoint your doctor, so it might feel natural and harmless to misrepresent the nature of your exercise regimen — and anyway, you're going to dust off those old jogging shoes and get back at it as soon as your life isn't so hectic, right?  According to the Mayo Clinic, no one knows more about your physical condition than your doctor, so patients should be honest about their exercise habits, even if they're in the habit of not exercising.

RX Prescription

I Finished My Prescription

So, the doctor gave you a prescription and told you to keep taking it until it was gone, even if you started feeling better. But when your symptoms cleared up, the last of the pills disappeared into the medicine cabinet. In this scenario, don't lie to cover your tracks. It's absolutely critical for your doctor to know what medications you're taking and in what doses. If a patient lies about completing a prescription, the doctor might give up on a treatment that could have otherwise worked. Your doctor also needs the whole truth in order to avoid dangerous drug interactions.

Ditch Yo-Yo Dieting

I Eat a Healthy Diet

Your doctor wants to know that you're eating well, but only if it's true. Many people honestly underestimate how frequently they overeat or eat poorly, while others intentionally fib in their own favor to keep the doctor happy. In both cases, however, it's the patient who is likely to suffer from a failure to own up to poor diet discipline — particularly where weight loss is concerned. If you're claiming kale and quinoa but actually subsisting largely on drive-thru value meals, your doctor might pursue a more aggressive treatment plan when the problem could likely have been solved with cruciferous vegetables. Also, if you're not honest about what you eat, your doctor might miss an allergy or food intolerance that could be the cause of a health problem.

I Don’t Take Supplements

I Don’t Take Supplements

Some patients worry that their doctors will frown upon what they perceive to be holistic, alternative or non-traditional treatments like supplements. The truth, however, is that you have to tell your doctor about the stuff you're buying from GNC or Whole Foods. Many supplements contain ingredients that could have unintended reactions with prescription medications, and could potentially impact medical procedures and treatments such as surgery, blood work, chemotherapy and more.

A simple touch can mean so much
Delmaine Donson/istockphoto

I’m Monogamous — And Always Use Protection When I’m Not

For people who don't like getting undressed under fluorescent lights, slipping into paper gowns and having every inch of their bodies examined by a clinician in a white coat, doctor visits can be unnerving enough. Add frank discussions about your sex life and a checkup can turn into an ocean of anxiety. That, however, shouldn't stop you from being honest about your sexual activity. Anything less and you run the risk of your doctor missing an undiagnosed STD. But diseases aren't the only reason that honesty is the best policy when it comes to discussing sex with your doctor. You could also miss out on the chance to improve your sex life by conquering issues like erectile dysfunction and low libido.

Depression-sadness, loss of appetite

I’m Not Depressed

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is common, potentially tragic and, thankfully, manageable — but only if you're honest with your doctor. If you're feeling pessimistic, hopeless, uninterested, tired, irritable or restless, you might suffer from depression (although there are many other symptoms). Don't be stoic, don't blow these warning signs off as normal human emotions and don't worry about coming off as a complainer. Depression is a real disease and sufferers can get help, but only if they clue their physicians in on the signs and symptoms.

aching woman
Yazgi Bayram/istockphoto

I Never Had an Abortion

Having an abortion is one of the most difficult and personal decisions a woman can make, but it's not something women should hide from their doctors. This is particularly true if they're pursuing in vitro fertilization (IVF) in an attempt to get pregnant. Doctors need to know about a previous termination so they can look for things like damage to the uterus or scar tissue before moving forward.