I Have 'White Coat Syndrome.' Suggestions?
I have a typical case of the ‘white coat syndrome.’ I am terrified to go to the doctor in case my worst fears about my health come true. What should I do?
Many anxious people have health and medical sensitivities, which can set them up for the ‘white coat syndrome’ – being fearful of going to the doctor in case their worst fears about their health come true.
Because of this, these anxious personalities would rather not know about a serious medical condition than have to face it and deal with it. While this approach may seem beneficial, it actually works against them…and can certainly fuel anxiety and anxiety disorder.
Anxiety occurs when you imagine and fear the worst. The more you don’t know, the more anxious people worry. The more they worry, the more hyperstimulated the body becomes. This is the perfect recipe for a struggle with anxiety disorder and its sensations and symptoms.
In my (Jim Folk) opinion, it’s much better to know what you are dealing with rather than imagining the worst. Sure, you may be anxious about visiting the doctor, but this anxiety is almost always quickly relieved when the doctor says everything is normal or not serious. There isn’t any comparison to a day of nervousness seeing the doctor to maybe months and even years of needless worry…especially when there isn’t anything medically wrong in the first place.
Remember, anxious people have a tendency to imagine the worst. But very seldom does the worst actually happen.
So I suggest working to overcome your ‘white coat syndrome’ rather than succumbing to it. Again, sure, you might experience an increase in anxiety in the short-term while confronting your 'white coat syndrome.' But that is much easier for the body to handle than months or years of needless worry.
Finding and working with a good doctor can make a world of difference, too.
That said, I don’t recommend going to the doctor for every ache and pain. We want to be reasonable and only visit the doctor if something persists for more than a week or so. Many of us have aches and pains that seem unexplainable. But the body usually gets on top of them within a week or so. This is considered normal and becomes more prevalent as we age.
Of course this doesn’t apply if you have already been diagnosed with a medical condition. In this regard, follow your doctor’s advice about monitoring and reporting on your condition.
Anxiety occurs when we avoid the things we are afraid of and worry about them anyway. We overcome anxiety by summoning up courage and facing our fears…so that we can learn we don’t have to be afraid. Extinguish fear is all about learning we don’t have anything to fear.
If you are having difficulty overcoming your 'white coat syndrome' fear, you may want to connect with one of our anxiety therapists, coaches, or counselors. His/her help can be invaluable when addressing and overcoming core fears, such as those regarding health and medical matters.
The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder coach, counselor, or therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.
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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated January 1, 2019.