8 Things You Need to Know About
Talking to Your Doctor to Receive a Diagnosis

See also: Communicating in Difficult Situations

Living with an undiagnosed medical condition is challenging at best. Your symptoms may keep you from living the life you want, but approaching your doctor seems like an even bigger battle. You deserve a comfortable, happy life and treatment for anything that ails you.

Read about the things you need to know about talking to your doctor to receive a diagnosis and start feeling better right away.

1. They Have a Schedule

Many people live with chronic pain or debilitating symptoms for years. Their conditions may change with time, complicating the story of their experience. It makes sense to tell your story from the beginning to provide any related information, but it could backfire.

Doctors set tight schedules to keep up with their daily appointments. They won’t tell you that they only have ten or fifteen minutes to meet with you, but it’s safe to assume that’s the case. The pressure to see everyone quickly can sometimes influence even the best physicians to rush through each visit.

If relaying your medical history takes too much time, your doctor might start thinking about their next patient and miss information. Keep your initial explanation as concise as possible to get the most from your appointment.

2. They Need Your Honesty

It can be embarrassing to talk about specific symptoms, especially if they’ve caused months or years of shame. It’s crucial to still talk about them even if they make you start sweating or get flushed. Your physician is there to help you. They won’t care about accurate terms for body parts or bodily functions that make others uncomfortable.

Doctors need to know about all of your symptoms to pinpoint the best diagnosis. That includes things you don’t think are a big deal, like the fifteen-minute daily headache you always get right after dinner. Everything could be a vital symptom until your doctor rules it out.

3. You Can Prepare Questions

Everyone’s experienced that moment when you sit down with your doctor and immediately forget most of what you wanted to talk about. It’s an especially common occurrence for people with social anxiety.

Make your next appointment more productive by preparing a list of questions based on what your doctor will do. You could inquire about potential conditions by asking things like:

  1. What conditions do my symptoms point to?
  2. How are they managed?
  3. Where can I research more about what I likely have?

Referring to a list of questions will streamline the conversation. Your doctor will make it to their next appointment on time while covering everything you wanted to discuss.

4. They Could Have Biases

You might encounter biases unless you’ve known your doctor for a long time and have brought up your symptoms before. The joint pain you’re finally going to talk about could bring your doctor’s fatphobia to the surface. If they immediately focus on your weight without inquiring about other symptoms or potential causes, you may not get the care you need.

Weight-related discrimination is all too common. Research shows that doctors treat obese patients less respectfully because they fat shame. It’s easy for even the most compassionate medical professionals to learn in a world where being thin is the ultimate validation of beauty and worth, based on which wellness products are popular.

You could also experience racism, sexism and bigotry in your primary care office. Prepare yourself by learning about implicit biases and thinking about how you’ll respond if you need to come to your defense to get medical advice. It’s always okay to switch providers if you can’t get through to your current doctor too.

5. They Need Your Medical History

You may have recently switched doctors due to a move or change in insurance coverage. It’s essential to check with your clinic’s office staff to verify that your paperwork is updated. Requesting a transfer of your file doesn’t always guarantee a smooth transition of information.

Your file should include your entire medical history. Your doctor will make the most accurate diagnosis if they know what you’ve experienced. Ensure that your file contains:

  1. Your vaccination record
  2. Your most recent emergency clinic visits
  3. Any recent hospital history

A quick phone call to your doctor’s office manager will resolve any missing information. Gaps in your record could mean that your doctor provides a misdiagnosis, and you have to go longer without an accurate treatment plan.

6. They May Not Know Specialists

Patients often think that their doctor knows everything. Their med school training and residency years gave them in-depth knowledge in their field, but that doesn’t mean they’re omniscient.

You could receive a rare or specialized diagnosis. Even if your doctor can tell which condition is causing your pain or discomfort, your doctor might not know how to treat it or who you can call. If that happens to you, get as much information from them as possible.

You’ll need the name of your diagnosis and any related information your doctor can give you before heading home. Write everything down and research specialists after your appointment. There may be a few within your insurance coverage territory. Any who are outside of that region will be a more significant upfront cost for a consultation.

7. You Should Mention Every Symptom

There’s no penalty for patients who mention previous or ongoing symptoms at the end of their appointment. People forget things all the time. Mentioning it while you have your doctor’s ear is what’s most important.

After leaving your appointment, make a quick phone call if you remember something. An office member will take your message and get your doctor to call you back right away. Remembering a symptom during your drive home is equally as crucial as mentioning something in the clinic. All of the information is necessary to get proper care.

If you’re discussing something with your doctor and their response is confusing, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Take notes regarding how they explain your symptoms and their possible solutions. Your appointment should clarify your situation without giving you more questions than answers. You can always take your notes to a specialist and get more information, but you won’t know who to talk to if you don’t understand what’s going on with your health.

8. They Might Leave Open-Minded

After living with life-changing symptoms and finally making the appointment with your doctor, you’ll likely walk into the clinic expecting results. That happens for many patients, but it’s not a guarantee. Sometimes, your doctor should withhold a concrete diagnosis before leaving to avoid a misdiagnosis.

Your physician may need more information before they’re comfortable recommending a specialist or treatment. They could request additional information from your medical history or more time to see which of your symptoms are most prevalent over the next few weeks.

It’s disappointing when that happens, but it means that your doctor is putting your well-being before their need to move on to the next patient. Trust your physician if they need to schedule another appointment. You’ll get better care by giving them more time.

Talk With to Your Doctor Soon

Now that you’ve read a few things you need to know about talking to your doctor to receive a diagnosis, call your primary care physician. They’ll find time in their calendar to listen to your concerns and create the best treatment plan. You deserve to find out what’s causing your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

About the Author

Ava Roman (she/her) is the Managing Editor of Revivalist, a women’s lifestyle magazine that empowers women to live their most authentic life. When Ava is not writing you'll find her in a yoga class, advocating for body positivity, whipping up something delicious in the kitchen, or smashing the patriarchy.