Cedars-Sinai Blog

How to Address Uncomfortable Topics With Your Doctor

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Too embarrassed to talk to your doc? Try these 5 break-the-ice strategies.

When you sit down with someone for a limited amount of time each year, discussing your weirdest symptoms, most embarrassing sexual challenges, and deepest secrets can be tough.

Yet, it's critical to tackle problems before they spin out of control. 


"It's important for patients to understand that we view medical exam rooms as sacred ground where patients can talk about anything."


"If I put myself in my patients' shoes, it's nerve-wracking," says Dr. Nitin Kapur, internal medicine physician.

"But it's important for patients to realize that an experienced physician has seen and heard a full spectrum of complaints."

"Whatever your concern is, it's likely that an experienced primary care doctor has either encountered it before or knows which specialists could treat you for your ailment."

The most under-discussed health woes: 



How to break the ice with your doctor
Build a partnership

View your doctor as a comrade in your quest to uncover the source of your health problems, not someone who will judge you for your circumstances.

The best outcomes occur when there's a strong therapeutic alliance between doctor and patient.

"My patients need to feel like they can trust me to doctor appropriately," says Dr. Kapur.

If you can't connect with your doctor—or open up about your health ailments—it will be much more difficult to address your root problem.  


"Whatever your concern is, it's likely that an experienced primary care doctor has either encountered it before or knows which specialists could treat you for your ailment."


Write it down

If you research your issue in advance and come to your appointment armed with a list of questions, you're much more likely to cover all of your concerns. 

"Writing down notes can help ensure you disclose everything that's on your mind," Dr. Kapur says. "It can also help reduce the emotional load of the experience and help you feel less nervous." 

Use priming phrases


Be direct
Don't let it go


Get comfortable

In every case, the sooner you start talking about sensitive health issues, the better equipped you (and your doctor) will be to address them

"As a physician, I can only help address problems when I know about them," Dr. Kapur says.

"It's important for patients to understand that we view medical exam rooms as sacred ground where patients can talk about anything."

The success of any doctor/patient relationship boils down to chemistry.

If you don't connect with your doctor, or if you feel like you can't trust them with sensitive issues, it may be time to look for a new provider.