Talking to Your Doctor About Social Anxiety

A doctor and patient talk in a hospital.
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Many people with symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD) never receive a diagnosis because they're afraid to talk to their doctor about how they're feeling. You may feel like you don't know what to say or how to explain it, or maybe you even feel embarrassed about your social anxiety. You're not alone; many fellow SAD patients feel similarly. Here are some tips to help you talk to your doctor.

Write It Down

One good solution to this problem is to present your doctor with a case summary instead of trying to verbally explain your symptoms. In general, a case summary is a concise description of your history of symptoms. The summary should be detailed but short enough that your doctor can read through it quickly.

If you decide to do a case summary, here are the key points you should address:

  • Your Background Information: Highlight any important family mental health history, relevant family and social relationships, your history with drugs and alcohol (if applicable), challenges you have with everyday life, your goals, and how you cope with SAD.
  • Your Symptoms: Make a list of all the symptoms you experience, whether physical, emotional, or sensory, as well as how they make you feel and/or what they make you think.

Even if you don't bring a case summary, it's a good idea to write out your thoughts ahead of time in bullet point form. Doing so ensures that nothing gets forgotten, even if you become anxious when speaking with your doctor. Writing down the answers that your doctor gives will also give you a written record of what was said and help to keep you focused on that instead of your anxiety.

Acknowledge Your Anxiety

Before starting to speak with your doctor, tell him that you're going to have a hard time talking with him. If you decide to prepare a case summary, include a statement at the beginning that's similar to this:

"I probably look fine to you now, but inside I am terrified that you're judging me. When I talk to doctors I become very anxious, my mind goes blank, and I can't explain what's wrong."

Bring Someone Along

Bring someone with you to speak to your doctor. In addition to having the emotional support of a friend or family member, that person can listen to what is said, think of questions, and ask for clarification when necessary. A second person could also take notes of what is said during the meeting.

Remember Doctors Are There to Help

Although it can be intimidating talking to professionals about personal issues, it's your doctor's job to listen and understand. Trusting your doctor may be hard, but sharing how you're feeling is the first step toward getting help.

If for some reason you feel that your doctor isn't helping you or isn't the right choice for treating your SAD, you may want to look for someone else. You need to feel comfortable and safe with whoever is treating you.

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  1. Goetter EM, Frumkin MR, Palitz SA, et al. Barriers to mental health treatment among individuals with social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorderPsychol Serv. 2020;17(1):5–12. doi:10.1037/ser0000254