7 Things Your Doctor Wants You To Stop Lying About

Photographed by Megan Madden.
Even if you like your doctor, it can be hard not to think of him or her like your parent sometimes. On one hand, sure, you want to feel your best. But on the other hand, does this person really need to know how much weed you smoke? It turns out the answer is, basically, yeah — but not always for the reason you think.

"One of the most important parts of seeing your doctor is building that relationship, someone you can confide in," says Albert Ahn, MD, clinical instructor of internal medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. "Developing that relationship makes the whole thing more effective."

For instance, Dr. Ahn says you're much less likely to ask those lingering "Oh, by the way..." type questions when you don't feel comfortable around your doc. But those are often the kind of issues that have an easy fix (such as simply cutting back on the over-the-counter painkillers if you're feeling a little constipated), or the ones we're most annoyed about forgetting to bring up.

Still, there are some sensitive issues or questions that we're not so excited to answer honestly even when our doctors are totally chill. Indeed, a recent survey from NetQuote found that, although most women tended to be at least mostly honest with their doctors, the number one reason for lying was a fear of being judged. But Dr. Ahn assures us he's heard those (potentially embarrassing) questions many, many times before.

However, if you really don't feel like you can be honest with your doctor, or you feel like you've brought something up and been judged for it, it's time to move on: "If you’re not comfortable talking about your personal issues, it may mean you need to find a different doctor," says Dr. Ahn, "and there are a lot of options." You may want to try taking your question to a specialist (e.g. your gyno) or different kind of primary care provider (e.g. a nurse practitioner).

For now, though, we're going to assume you're cool with your doctor, but that there may still be a few sensitive issues you haven't exactly found a way to bring up — or you feel like your dishonesty is just a harmless "white lie." Click through to see seven things doctors wish we'd just get over and be honest about.



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Photographed by Tayler Smith.
Drugs

Yep, that includes marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol. "In my experience, a lot of times people use recreational drugs to self-treat underlying issues," Dr. Ahn says. "Whether it’s Adderall without a prescription or marijuana for anxiety or depression, getting a full history [of your drug use] can at least get you on the right track to treatment."

When it comes to alcohol, though, things can get a little extra complicated because the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are pretty darn restrictive — they recommend just one alcoholic drink per day for women.

"I tell people those are the guidelines and the reasons [they're so restrictive] are a little antiquated and they can be a little flexible," Dr. Ahn says, "but the truth is chronic alcohol use can have long-term side effects."

So the rest of the picture of your health matters here, including your blood pressure and liver health. "But it's hard for me to assess [how flexible the guidelines can be for you] if people aren’t honest in the first place," Dr. Ahn says.
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Photographed by Megan Madden.
Medications

This definitely applies to any prescription medications (including birth control), but it also means you need to be honest about any over-the-counter meds you take — including vitamins and supplements.

"There's no medication that has no side effects," Dr. Ahn says. But those effects may not be so obvious. Medications like Aspirin, for instance, "are really common and can cause a lot of issues if they're taken chronically or inappropriately." That could include kidney issues, blood pressure problems, or interactions with other medications.

Some vitamins and supplements (such as vitamin E or St. John's wort) can interfere with medications, too. And when taken in large amounts, those vitamins can actually cause more problems than they solve.
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Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
Mental Health

If you're concerned your depression or anxiety is getting worse, or you're just feeling a little off, your doctor can absolutely help you figure out what's up and get you on the path to any care you need.

"There a lot of extenuating factors that can affect mood," Dr. Ahn says. "Things like anemia, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid hormone issues — all of that can affect your mood, sleep, and overall health."

So it may take a little trial and error to get to the root of your issue, but that's where building a relationship with your doctor really comes in handy: "It’s extremely important for the patient to be able to express what they need to get to a diagnosis or treatment plan that best fits them because not everyone can be treated the same way for the same condition," Dr. Ahn says.
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Photographed by Megan Madden.
Sex

Yep, sorry. You've gotta tell your doctor if you're currently sexually active and whether or not you're using condoms or any form of birth control.

First off, not all STIs come with obvious symptoms, but they may still have serious consequences. For instance, many of us have HPV infections come and go without having any clue. But there are some cases in which HPV can turn into cervical cancer. So information about your sexual health habits lets your doctor know to be on the lookout for some of these potentially scary things.

Second, the way your doctor addresses your health issues may change if there's a chance you're pregnant, especially with regard to the medications he or she prescribes, Dr. Ahn says.
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Photographed by Megan Madden.
Your Period

If your period is extra painful, there's no reason to suffer through it. And although this may generally seem like a topic for your gyno to tackle, your regular doctor can help out too — and refer you elsewhere if needed.

Just like your mental health, your period could be made more painful or irregular thanks to a bunch of other underlying factors: "[It could be] anemia, your thyroid, eating disorders, underlying depression or anxiety, and some people do just have PMDD," Dr. Ahn says. "But there are treatments."

Talking to your doctor about your concerns can help you narrow down any hidden causes of period weirdness.
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Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Healthy Habits

Across the board, Dr. Ahn says this is one area in which patients "tend to want to present a better picture rather than a purely honest picture for fear of judgment."

But it's especially crucial for patients who have developed metabolic syndrome — a combination of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, and excess weight around the stomach — to paint that honest picture. That's because the first step in treatment is often a "drastic overhaul" of eating and exercise habits, Dr. Ahn says.

And while it's very easy for doctors to see improvements in lab tests, they don't know what you're doing at home. So if those lab tests aren't improving, you've gotta be up front about your out-of-office habits so your doc knows where to go next.
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Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
Gut Health

Talking about your bathroom habits may not come particularly easily, but if you're concerned or just curious, your doctor would be more than happy to help out. And you might be surprised how not alone you are: "I’ve learned that people are much less shy talking about their stomach and bowel issues than I would have thought," Dr. Ahn says.

A lot of the time, Dr. Ahn says he simply reassures people that their habits are normal. What might be cause for more investigation is if those patterns have changed.

"If you eat healthy and drink lots of water and notice something changes, then [that may be]something to be concerned about," he says. And often changes are due to some underlying issue, especially anxiety.
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