It can be daunting visiting the doctor. Even if you have a good relationship with your GP, it can be embarrassing or uncomfortable to talk about what’s really troubling you.

Health on Female First

Health on Female First

So it’s unsurprising that so many Brits admit lying to their doctors. According to new research by leading life insurance broker LifeSearch, 18 million of us have lied to our doctors about things like how much we drink or smoke, drug use or how bad our symptoms really are.

But for six in 10 of us, withholding the truth has had a serious impact on our health – including a deterioration in mental and physical health, or even a hospital stay that could have been avoided. So, honesty really is the best policy when it comes to speaking with your doctor. But NHS GP Dr Zoe Norris knows this is often harder than it sounds.

"In my role as a GP I often see patients who are worried about telling me what's really wrong, either through embarrassment or fear of being judged. But it's my job to advise on the best solution whatever's troubling you.

"Facing up to the truth, though it may be uncomfortable, is really important in making sure you get the right treatment at the right time,” she continues, “it's often the case that early treatment or diagnosis leads to better health in the long term.”

So here are Dr Zoe’s top tips for starting an honest conversation with your GP:

We’ve heard it all before – it takes a lot to shock us, and although a symptom or circumstance may seem unusual to you, chances are we’ve seen something similar before. All we want is to improve your health, we’re not there to judge

Preparation is key – we all live busy lives, so finding the time to prepare for your visit can be tricky. If you have a problem that’s hard to talk about, I often recommend to my patients that they write it down – reading the words often makes people feel more at ease, and it’s a useful way to remember all the questions you want to ask, too!

Relax – we’re here to help you, not to judge. We’re on your side, and remember a problem shared is a problem halved. Lots of patients I see downplay their symptoms – they don’t want to trouble me or make a fuss, but the reality is if you’re worried enough to come in and see me then it’s worth taking a proper look  

You don’t have to go alone – if you would prefer to have a close friend or family member come along with you to give you the confidence to say what’s on your mind, then that’s fine with me! What’s most important is being in a position where you feel most comfortable talking about your symptoms and concerns. If having someone else there eases your nerves, then go for it.

Find your comfort zone – remember you have a choice about who you see when you go to the doctor. For example, if you would prefer to see someone of the same gender, or someone you’ve met before and feel comfortable with, you can request this.

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