If you've fibbed to your doctor about your health habits or how faithfully you've followed his or her guidance, you're far from alone. In a recent national survey by Synovate, 52 percent of women admitted they had lied to their health care providers. But just because most people do it, that doesn't make it OK.
(MORE: The Truth Is, Lying Makes You Sick)
It seems obvious, but lying to the doctor can be hazardous to your health, says Elif Oker, medical director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. "Doctors make decisions about diagnosis and treatment based on what patients tell them," she says. Incomplete information can lead to delayed treatment, unnecessary suffering and avoidable complications.
Why We Lie
Shame and embarrassment top the list of reasons why patients stretch the truth in the examination room, Oker says. But while "the truth may feel embarrassing to discuss," she says, "patients should find comfort in knowing that doctors are professionals. There is virtually nothing you can say that a good doctor hasn’t already heard."
A doctor's job is not to judge you but to heal you, adds social worker and Alzheimer's Association consultant Jennifer FitzPatrick, the author of Your 24/7 Older Parent. “If you are uncomfortable talking openly," she says, "or if you feel like your doctor is judging you, it might be best to find another doctor you are more comfortable with.”
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