01/12/2014 10:48 EST | Updated 03/14/2014 05:59 EDT

Doctor, Please Don't Judge Me Because I Live With Anxiety

We all have one or two of them: An underlying health problem. It could be something really annoying all the way up to something potentially life-threatening. We tend to get asked about underlying health problems whenever we meet with a new doctor or specialist or pay a visit to a walk-in clinic or emergency room.

I, like many people, have had to pay a visit to the ER or a walk-in clinic from time to time and I hate it. I don't like having a doctor that I don't know examine me. However, if my doctor is on vacation or if I have a medical problem that requires immediate attention then I will ensure that I get seen right away. When the triage nurse is asking me the standard questions one of them that always comes up is "Do you have any underlying health problems?'

I've hit a bit of a dilemma and that is deciding whether or not to disclose to a doctor I'll likely only see once or twice that I have mental illness.

A few years ago I was battling what felt like the stomach flu year-round. When my family doctor made the referral to the gastroenterologist she included that I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Two times over the course of 18 months the specialist met with me for less than five minutes, didn't run any tests, and he brushed off my symptoms as nothing more than an anxiety attack.

Finally I begged my doctor to send me to a different specialist and not include that I have mental illness. The second doctor ran tests and diagnosed me with a treatable stomach condition and said my symptoms were very real. Based on this experience I feel like the first specialist was prejudiced by my mental illness.

However, there are times when I feel the need to disclose my mental illness at the hospital. I tend to do so when I'm most anxious about being there. I get bad 'white-coat effect' and my blood pressure tends to be high so I'm usually mistaken for having high blood pressure.

Something that relieves my anxiety in the ER is either asking lots of questions or have the doctor or nurse give me a play-by-play about what their doing to me. The majority of doctors tend to be empathetic towards me. I think they'd rather have a relaxed patient then one freaking out or pacing down the hall.

My family doctor has seen me through thick and thin, through good times and through bad times. Doctors offices (and dentists offices too) are my least favourite places. I mean after all you don't visit them to brag that you're healthy. However I still believe there is prejudice and stigma within the medical community.

More than once I've had triage nurses ask "Are you sure you're not just having an anxiety attack?" As my friends and family know that I usually have to be pushed real hard to seek medical attention. Not because of the prejudice but because of the anxiety that is triggered when I have to see a doctor. Nine times of out ten there usually is a physical ailment that requires treatment.

Just because I have a mental illness doesn't mean that I don't know when I'm sick. The experience of both the doctor and me would be more fulfilling if I wasn't judged before being examined simply because of the fact that I live with anxiety and depression.

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