Image 7 Ways to Overcome Anxiety at the Doctor's Office

7 Ways to Overcome Anxiety at the Doctor’s Office

7 Ways to Overcome Anxiety at the Doctor's Office

Going to the doctor’s office is not a walk in the park for anybody, but for some people, it can be a real source of anxiety. Does your stomach start tying up in knots and you start to panic when you even think about making a doctor’s appointment, let alone actually walking into the office? Avoiding going to the doctor’s will only put your health at risk so you need to address your anxiety now. Here are 7 ways to overcome anxiety at the doctor’s office and it starts with this first tip:

Understand the source of your anxiety

Before you can really address your anxiety, you first need to pinpoint the source of your anxiety. Is it the stress of a long wait in a room full of sick people? If you typically have long waits when you go the doctor’s, this might cause your stress and anxiety to build up, and if you are particularly worried about what the doctor will say or find during your examination, then all that time sitting there is probably making you dwell on your worries even more.

For other people, the anxiety might come from the examination or procedure they are going to get or the fear of bad news. And there are some people who actually suffer from a disorder called iatrophobia, a fear of doctors.

Keep your mind diverted

There are many different activities you can do while you are in the waiting room to help keep your mind off the long wait or what will happen when you finally do go back to see the doctor. One way to reduce anxiety at the doctor’s office is to bring along something that you enjoy doing like a puzzle or a magazine to read. Bring headphones for your phone or iPod so you can listen to calm, relaxing music while you wait. You can even bring a drawing pad and pencils or even your knitting needles. Even simply counting colors in the waiting room can keep you diverted and calm. The key is to be focused on an enjoyable activity so you stay relaxed.

If your stress stems more from the missing time from work, then bring your work with you so you can catch up on things while waiting for your turn.

Learn stress management techniques

When you start to feel stress building up inside, it might feel easy to slide right into panic mode and hightail it out the door, but there are some stress management techniques that can help. Try deep breathing for instance. Just take slow deep breaths that you can feel in your toes and just concentrate on your breathing.

Here is a simple exercise to follow: Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four and then hold your breath for a count of six. Then exhale through your mouth, again very slowly for a count of eight.

Another good technique to reduce anxiety at the doctor’s office is visualization. Try imaging your favorite place that leaves you feeling peaceful and relaxed. Use your senses to imagine you are at that place instead of the doctor’s office. Smell the salt air, feel your feet sinking into the soft sand.

Watch your intake of water

Too much water can cause your blood pressure to rise so drinking a lot of water before a doctor’s visit can exacerbate the tendency for your blood pressure to rise when you are feeling anxious. While drinking water won’t raise it by a lot, why make a tough situation any worse?

Let the doctor’s office staff know

While you might feel a little embarrassed at first, there is nothing wrong with letting the doctor’s office staff know about your concerns upfront. Mention it when you first make your appointment and ask if they can offer any special accommodations that could make it easier for you to handle the appointment like less time in the waiting room or time to meet with the doctor first before getting examined so you have time to gradually adjust to what is going on around you.

If your blood pressure tends to go up when you are in anxious situations then this is another important reason you should let your doctor know right away. That way they know why it might be up when they take it as a part of your regular physical evaluation.

See a therapist

If your anxiety is overwhelming and it is keeping you from taking proper care of your health, then you might want to consider seeing a licensed therapist who specializes in anxiety. If you think you might have iatrophobia, then you especially should consider this.

When picking a licensed therapist, you need to do a lot of homework. Don’t just go with a name your insurance company gives you. Do some digging on your own. Find out about their education, how long they have been practicing and try to read up on anything they have published. It is also a good idea to go in for a consultation before making a final decision. You won’t know until you sit down with him or her what their approach is really like and if it will be a good fit for you. If you are not comfortable with them then there is a good chance your treatment will not be successful. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. You can also confide in friends and ask them if they are seeing a therapist they trust.

Make a plan

A licensed therapist can help walk you through different scenarios that cause you the most fear and anxiety and help you come up with a plan for dealing with each of them. Then come equipped with a plan and any items you might need to implement that plan, like items for distraction.

The bottom line is that you should never just try to push through your fear and anxiety. Trying to hide it will only make it worse. You could develop full blown panic attacks and start avoiding doctor’s for years and miss out on important treatment and care by your doctor. You don’t want to wait until you have a health crisis like a heart attack for you to finally get the treatment you need. Take back control of your life today using these 7 ways to overcome anxiety at the doctor’s office. It is the best thing for your overall health.

8 responses to “7 Ways to Overcome Anxiety at the Doctor’s Office”

  1. Becca Holton says:

    I agree that it’s probably most beneficial to let your doctor know about your anxiety. There’s no way anyone can help you if you keep it to yourself. I imagine that most facilities will try to work around your needs.

  2. Deb Pearl says:

    Thank you for all the tips on how to handle anxiety when going to the doctor’s office. My husband gets really anxious whenever we have to go and I would love to help calm his nerves. I really liked your tip about doing some deep breathing to help calm your nerves. We will see if that helps my husband!

  3. Crystal L says:

    Great advice. I’ve used them myself. I have a chronic autoimmune disease as well as GAD and major panic disorder. I have been unable to get much of any treatment. I make my monthly appointments with the intention of discussing all the health problems I have and once I’m there I go into panic mode. Once I get into the doctors actual office, I say everything is fine and rush out. I’m having major health problems but cannot get past my panic and talk to doctor. I fear my body is shutting down but I cannot get treatment. Unfortunately I cannot afford a therapist so I’m really stuck. I’m ok outside of the office but once I go into the building it literally takes over my mind. It’s the strangest thing. I have tried all the techniques you listed. Also I take an ice pack and when I feel panic coming on, I place the ice pack on my chest and it helps I look like a nut but it buys me an extra 5-10 minutes. I have left because I felt like I was gonna pass out and I was too embarrassed to say anything or ask for help. I’m at a loss how to handle this. I desperately want to discuss my health issues and see a therapist but I either cannot stay inside office that long or cannot afford it. I wish I could have my appointment on the parking lot. Haha. Joking but not. This panic disorder has become an everyday occurrence and I find that I almost never leave my house during the day and will go out only at night if there is no chance I’ll see anyone that may know me. I went from the most outgoing person, managing a large sales company to a hermit at the age of 45 who looks for any excuse to miss things even holidays. Help Any other more in depth suggestions to help my cope with daily life and doctors appointments.

    • Luken says:

      Cristal L., I would actually consider the “parking appointment” you talk about… Maybe, when you make an appointment, you can ask to meet the doctor at the hospital café or a nearby location? Asking them not to wear the robe may also help. Even thought a proper examination is not possible in the café, at least you would be able to break the ice and gain confidence with your doctor. Best of luck.

  4. Joseph Rosso says:

    I have employment physical in a few days And it’s starting up again I dont have high blood pressure but I do have high anxiety, after reading the Blood pressure the medical assistant will become more anxious than me a say OH YOU HAVE TO GO TO THE ER ITS TOO HIGH ITS TOO HIGH, that adds to the anxiety , I have some one take my b/p and it’s as low as 120/70 &as high as 150/80. Even when you tell them you have anxiety they dont pay attention

  5. Charles Justice says:

    For Cristal L. and Joseph Rosso:

    I have a combination of the problems you both have. I’m now 79 and these began about age 35. My pressures are always normal or even below at home. One thing that may help is advice given me by four different ophthalmologists over a number of years. That is, if your retinas don’t show any damage over time, then you almost certainly DO NOT have chronic high bp! That should be a relief. Second, visualization helps me somewhat and also, from many readings, realizing that bp readings are really easily incorrect depending on time of day and whether about five rules are or are not observed by the person taking the reading. You should both read some Internet articles on proper bp technique by places such as Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School. Take care always and much luck. Charles

  6. Kami K Ward says:

    Stomach gets into a knot when I reach for the phone to schedule a prescription refill appointment. All through the days until the appointment my mind is racing and when I step into the building my adrenaline is in panic mode. I do have high adrenaline rushes while on Wellbutrin and am taking blood pressure med for high blood pressure and hypertension. I physically feel ill. I reach for my phone and read prayers for high blood pressure and fear at the doctors office.

    • Lori O'Mara says:

      Hi Kami,

      Deep breathing will slow down your described panic response. It sounds like you are in flight or fight mode in those moments and your breath will be your best ally in slowing down that panic response. Breathe in for 4, hold for 7 and exhale for 8. The more you are able to do this, the better control you will have over your body and breath. Also tell your body and your brain that you are in control.

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Cope Better Therapy

Lori provides counseling to adults and couples in a comfortable environment in Rittenhouse Square. Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MbSR), she helps individuals live fuller lives.


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