Have an unhealthy relationship with food? Maybe your doctor can help. Have an unhealthy relationship with food? Maybe your doctor can help.
Life Wellbeing The lies we tell doctors (and why it’s time to come clean) Updated:

The lies we tell doctors (and why it’s time to come clean)

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Embarrassment, fear of being judged, avoiding an uncomfortable scan or test, or having a family member in the room with you.

These are some of the reasons why patients may lie to their doctors. Other times, patients simply forget the detail, or are in denial about the health issue.

Whatever the reason, there’s a good chance that your doctor has heard it all. The New Daily invited doctors to share the common lies they hear in the consultation room, and why it’s time to fess up.

The lie: ‘I quit smoking ___ days/months/years ago’

quit smoking
Are you completely honest with your doctor about your smoking habits? Photo: Getty

Come clean because …

When a doctor asks about smoking, they’re not trying to blame you for your habit or make you feel guilty.

Most likely, your doctor is trying to figure out your risk of smoking-related illnesses, such as lung conditions, heart disease and various cancers.

“Depending on their symptoms, a smoker may need extra tests to rule out serious smoking-related illnesses,” general practitioner and chief executive of online doctor service Qoctor, Dr Aifric Boylan, said.

Smokers might also require more regular health checks and tests.

“They may check things like your blood pressure and cholesterol a bit more often. If you smoke, it may also affect the medications a doctor considers for you,” Dr Boylan told The New Daily.

One example is the contraceptive pill, which is not recommended in women over 35 who smoke, due to the higher risk of blood clots and stroke.

The lie: ‘I hardly eat [or drink]  anything … and I still can’t lose weight’

binge eating
Have an unhealthy relationship with food? Maybe your doctor can help. Photo: Getty

Come clean because …

If you binge on comfort food on weekends but starve yourself during the week, you might not realise that you even have an eating problem. The same goes for your weekend drinking benders.

Other times, a sense of shame, or denial, can get in the way of an honest conversation with your doctor about weight problems, Dr Richard Bennett, a Melbourne GP, said.

“The situation is complex. Our understanding of, for example, the role of hormones in hunger and the role of the gut microbiome in weight-gain, is limited. But the simple rule of ‘calories in, calories out’ still applies,” Dr Bennett said.

“As a doctor, I want to support them, encourage them, find a way to help them. The untruth they tell me in clinic may take them a step further away from a constructive solution.”

The lie: ‘Yes, I take my medication every day’

prescription medicine
A recent Australian study found that half of the survey respondents didn’t take their prescription medication as directed by the doctor. Photo: Getty

Come clean because …

Medications can get expensive, life can be busy, and some people get side effects that make them dislike a particular treatment. But, whatever the reason, it’s best to let the doctor know where things are at.

“We know that a high proportion of people do not take their medication … otherwise they may decide to increase the dose, thinking the current prescription is not strong enough,” Dr Boylan said.

A recent study by the Australian Patients Association found that most people knew not taking medications as prescribed could be harmful – yet half admitted to not completing a prescription as directed.

“If you’re missing doses, there may be more convenient options available, for example, long-acting formulations that might be easier for you to stick with,” Dr Boylan said.

The lie: ‘No, I haven’t had unprotected sex’

sexual health

Come clean because …

Having a doctor ask you about your sexual activity can feel awkward and confrontational. But, if you have had unprotected sex, it may explain some symptoms, even if you didn’t realise they were related.

“There are numerous less common symptoms that can relate to sexually transmitted infections, including rashes, joint pains and fevers,” Dr Boylan said.

“Pregnancy is a possibility in sexually active woman, but a doctor may not perform a pregnancy test if you say you’re not sexually active.”

The lie: ‘Yeah, I get lots of exercise’

exercise phone
Are everyday distractions getting in the way of a healthy lifestyle? Photo: Getty

Come clean because …

Despite the best intentions, many people overestimate how much they move or exercise during the week.

With busy lifestyles, work pressures, and the demands of parenthood, it can be easy for many people to forget their daily recommended exercise amount – about 30-60 minutes of heart-pumping activity every day.

“It’s about assessing where you’re at, what your risk level is, and whether you might benefit from certain interventions, such as seeing an exercise physiologist,” Dr Boylan said.

The lie: ‘No, I’m not stressed or depressed’

lies doctors
Feeling stressed can be a sign of having too much to do – not weakness. Photo: Getty

Come clean because …

“When I ask patients about mental health, many people are comfortable talking about it, but some can be reluctant to consider a mental health issue as a possible cause of their symptoms,” Dr Boylan said.

The fear that it’s a sign of weakness, or how it might be perceived by family, friends and co-workers, are some of the main reasons patients hold back.

New mums, in particular, might feel guilty about experiencing postnatal depression because they think they “should feel happy” about motherhood, Dr Boylan said.

Others might worry that if they say they’re stressed or low, the doctor won’t do any tests to rule out physical problems.

“A good doctor will always keep an open mind … they will usually examine you and check your bloods, before blaming depression for everything,” she said.