Introverts: How to Get the Care You Deserve When You Visit the Doctor

IntrovertDear.com introvert doctor health

Is there anything worse in life than going to the doctor? There is — calling to make an appointment to see the doctor. But I digress. Visits to the doctor’s office are a special kind of hell for introverts. The rapid-fire questions, poking and prodding, and general invasiveness of the whole affair are all kinds of uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it’s an incredibly necessary part of life, and as such, we have to learn how best to deal with it.

Introverts Often Receive Substandard Healthcare

A study carried out by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research revealed that introverts often receive substandard healthcare because they’re reluctant to speak up about physical problems. In fact, the study found that introverted heart failure patients were six times more likely than their extroverted counterparts to be in poor health.

With doctor’s visits being so hurried these days, patients have to be assertive if they want the best standard of care. But since introverts often have trouble knowing what to say (thanks to issues with word retrieval), it can be extremely hard to speak up under that kind of pressure.

However, protecting your health is vital — no matter how much you might feel like waiting it out, it’s imperative to seek out a physician when you’re ill. While I know the the whole idea may sound unpleasant, there are a few things you can do to make things as painless as possible.

Introverts: Tips for Handling Medical Visits

Though under normal circumstances you may be inclined to listen more than you speak, it won’t serve you well when consulting with a doctor. If you fail to adequately describe your symptoms and concerns, your physician can’t properly diagnose the issue. The easiest way to tell if this is an ongoing problem is to ask yourself the following question: “When I leave doctors’ appointments, have all my questions been answered and my concerns been addressed?” If your answer is no, there’s a good chance you’re not being your own best advocate.

Of course, being your own best advocate is easier said than done — believe me, I’ve been there multiple times. However, it can be done. Here’s how you can take charge of your next appointment:

  • Determine what you need to discuss with your doctor before you attend your appointment. Write down a list of your concerns and questions, and make them specific. Not only will this make you less likely to panic and forget what you wanted to ask, it will also help your doctor ensure your needs are being met. This is especially important if you have a chronic condition, as you can keep track of your symptoms and any changes you may have experienced.
  • Remember that your needs are valid, too. In a society that values the extrovert’s way, introverts have gotten used to hiding their needs or pretending that they don’t have them. But it’s absolutely imperative to not do this when it comes to your physical health. If something hurts, say it. If you didn’t understand something clearly, ask again. Your health is more important than the minor inconvenience you might cause for your medical provider.
  • Bring a friend or family member to serve as your advocate/support system. They can take detailed notes, remind you about things you wanted to talk over, and remind you of doctors’ instructions after the visit has concluded.
  • Ask your doctor if they are are willing to answer questions about what was discussed or your treatment instructions via email. This can save you both time and money.

If you find yourself forgetting what you wanted to say or becoming easily overwhelmed when talking to your physician, it’s not a bad idea to discuss your introversion and how they can help make sure you’re receiving the best care — whether it be slowing down when talking to you or giving you plenty of time to think over and answer each question. A truly professional medical provider will do what they can to make you comfortable.

The Future Is Introvert Friendly

The future of healthcare might be decidedly more introvert friendly. Currently in its infancy, telehealth (also known as telemedicine) is poised to influence medicine in new and exciting ways. The telehealth movement is not only being driven by technological advances, but by the sheer number of aging boomers — which has experts hypothesizing that we’re trending toward a shift from hospital-based care to home-based care. Areas where telehealth can make a real difference include:

  • Operating as a low-cost alternative to regular office visits
  • Remotely monitoring recently discharged patients
  • Treating individuals with mental health issues who might ordinarily avoid treatment due to stigma
  • Ensure patients who cannot leave their home still have access to quality medical care

Telehealth also offers mobile apps that can help patients with chronic conditions maintain their treatment plans while staying connected with their doctors. Unfortunately, there are a number of obstacles (laws, insurance, security issues, and so on) that medical administrators are going to have to overcome before telehealth can take its place in society. Until then, we’ll have to make due with schlepping ourselves down to the doctor’s office every time we have a stubborn cough or need our yearly physical.

Though there’s nothing remotely fun about going to the doctor, it doesn’t have to be an anxiety-inducing event. As long as you take time to properly prepare your questions and concerns, you can make the most of an unpleasant situation. 

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Read this: Why Introverts Absolutely Loathe Talking on the Phone

Image credit: @jasmom1 via Twenty20

  • Catherine

    I’m glad you said introverts have word retrieval problems! For so many years I couldn’t express myself verbally, it’s only now aged 49 that I feel more comfortable doing so! I thought I was autistic or something but maybe just an introvert…

  • njguy54

    Excellent points about making preparatory notes and taking notes while in the doctor’s office. Most doctors give you a printed care plan that covers everything said during your visit, but taking notes can help you retain information. I often use my phone to take notes like this; I’m a big fan of the Day One journaling app, which is ideal for this purpose. In addition to your doctor, taking notes at your veterinarian will help you better care for your pets.

    One caveat: due to HIPAA privacy laws, most doctors will not email you about medical issues (until recently, most doctors did not trust technology; it’s one reason why they still use fax machines). Increasingly, practices are setting up secure web-based portals where you can review your appointments, prescriptions, care plans, referrals, billing, and even message your doctor.

    Finally, to me the most irritating part of seeing the doctor or dentist is the sense of being judged. This is especially true if you’re overweight— and, God forbid, you gained weight after your last visit. Many doctors have a very condescending attitude toward those who have conditions that they see as easily avoidable (weight gain, smoking, depression, drug or alcohol use, high risk sexual activity, etc). If you’re a HSP, you’re probably keenly aware of this. My advice: if your doctor makes you feel uncomfortable with his/her attitude, “vote with your feet” and switch doctors.

  • Kitti

    then again, if you’re constantly surrounded by stubborn butt doctors who hate taking the time to listen to you and always just default to the same diagnosis every time you go in with completely *different* symptoms… *sigh*

  • Thanae Georgiou

    I dunno I think this is a bit too much. Introverts might have issues speaking up and being social or talkative but I don’t think most introverts have that much of a difficulty that they can’t even talk about a simple health problem to their doctor. I think introversion has become sort of a ‘trend’ like many other things often become. At this case, people will start behaving in a hysterical kind of way, trying to analyze and ‘medicalize’ every single detail about the matter that is being observed, in this case, introversion. I think the whole ‘guide for introverts to handle this, tips for introverts when they do this, when they do that’, is going a bit overboard.

    We are introverts, not handicapped. Maybe there should be a limit of how much attention is given to something in risk of it becoming part of a trend instead of being seen for what it is, in a natural way. Introversion isn’t and shouldn’t be some trend. And treating introverts like special snowflakes because of their introversion isn’t exactly going to help them get anywhere. No one is a special snowflake, we are all unique but not better than each other just because we’re introverts or extroverts. And I dont think there is a need for some guide for how to act when visiting the doctor for God’s sake..we’re adults, I think figuring out how to discuss your health issues with your doctor should be a simple task for every sane adult out there, no matter their temperament.

  • Suzanne Yost

    As an introvert who’s had to have quite a few visits to the doctor, I really appreciated this article! You had some great points 🙂

  • Chad Baldwin

    The last time I was in a doctor’s office was for a skateboard fall. My elbow had swollen up large enough that I couldn’t move my arm. I don’t have a primary care physician, so I went to urgent care. There they did an x-ray. Afterward, the doctor talked to me and told me “You can move your arm further than that, stop pretending you can’t. Take more ibuprofen. Nothing’s broken.” and she left. Apparently I was just there to score some opiates. That’s the real problem with healthcare, convincing your doctors that you’re not a drug user.