Stop Keeping These 3 Secrets From Your Doctor

In order to diagnose and treat you correctly, your doctor needs information. For example, if you show up in the doctor's office with a mysterious rash, it can help your doctor make a diagnosis if you tell them that you were recently hiking in an area where poison ivy is known to grow. There's probably no reason that you would hide your hiking habits from your doctor, but there are plenty of other things that patients routinely hide about their lives, and these secrets can prevent doctors from making a correct diagnosis or prescribing the most effective treatment. Take a look at a few secrets that you should stop keeping from your family physician.

Whether You Drink, Smoke, or Take Drugs

As smoking has become less and less acceptable in public areas, many people find that their habit is something of an embarrassment. You know that it's bad for you, but you can't seem to stop (or don't want to) so instead, you try to hide it. Drinking alcohol is more socially acceptable, but if you're drinking more than you think you should or you're surrounded by people who disapprove of drinking, you may keep that under wraps as well. And of course, using illicit drugs or prescription drugs that aren't prescribed to you is illegal, so most people who do it aren't in a hurry to mention it.

However, all of these habits can significantly affect your health, so your doctor needs to know the facts about them. Doctor-patient confidentiality means that your doctor can't inform the police or your family about your habits, even if those habits are illegal, so you shouldn't hold back out of a fear of having your secret vices exposed. If you want to quit smoking, drinking, or using, your doctor can recommend medications, strategies, and resources that can help. Even if you don't want to quit, making your doctor aware of this part of your life can help ensure that any related health problems are treated correctly.

Your Sexual Preferences

Sexual preferences are highly personal and should not be something that you have to explain or justify to anyone. As long as everyone involved is a consenting adult, there's no wrong way to enjoy sex. However, making your doctor aware of your sexual preferences can help you receive the kind of medical advice and treatment that you need.

For example, letting your doctor know that you're a woman in a same-sex relationship saves time that the doctor might otherwise spend recommending birth control that you don't need. Letting your doctor know that you have multiple partners creates an opening for you and your physician to talk about what kind of safety precautions you should be taking and whether you should be tested for STIs.

When Someone is Hurting You or You're Hurting Yourself

People who are in abusive relationships or family living situations often keep quiet, either because they blame themselves or out of a desire to protect the abuser. People who self-harm or who are considering suicide also stay silent for many reasons, often because they're embarrassed, they don't believe that anyone can help, or they just don't know how to talk about it.

If someone is hurting you or if you're hurting yourself, or considering it, your doctor needs to know. Repeated injuries of any kind can lead to long-term health problems and permanent damage, especially if they aren't treated at the time. Your doctor can help you find ways to protect yourself from an abuser or pull yourself out of a self-destructive spiral.

Your physician isn't there to judge you, and whatever you have going on in your life, your doctor has probably seen it before. Keeping secrets from your doctor only endangers your health.