Do you dread going to the doctor? Do you feel unheard, misunderstood, unsupported? I hear you!
As a highly sensitive person, navigating the healthcare field can be challenging. The medical environment, including the sights, sounds, and smells, can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing for those with sensory sensitivities. Additionally, medication side effects may be more intense and adverse reactions more frequent.
I always have to start a medication…even just a vitamin or supplement, at half dose to make sure I can tolerate it. Sometimes I can manage a full dose, but often not. And there are many companies whose products I just can’t use due to sensitivity to their bases or whatever extraneous ingredients they use.
When seeing a healthcare provider, it can be frustrating to not be believed or understood. HSPs can experience pain at a much higher level, and that can come across as excessive or dramatic, when it’s just a matter of a more intense sensory experience. Highly sensing individuals may experience symptoms differently, and it is important to find a doctor who will take the time to listen and validate our concerns.
I can’t tell you how many times throughout my life I heard, “Well, that can’t happen,” or, “That can’t have anything to do with it/those aren’t connected,” etc. As though I would make it up and waste time for both of us. They just didn’t understand that we don’t all experience things the same way.
Thoughts for navigating the healthcare system
It is essential to communicate openly and honestly with healthcare professionals, explaining any sensitivities or adverse reactions to medications. It’s good to mention to a new practitioner at the beginning that you process things deeply and are very sensitive to many things, so some options might not work.
It’s also good…yes, this is valid and reasonable!…to request accommodations regarding the environment. Ask if they can turn off one of the too-bright or flickering lights, or be seen in a room that doesn’t have so much noise just outside the door, or one that has fewer intense smells, if you’re experiencing any of these situations.
I received deep tissue laser therapy for my shoulder last summer and the unit made a loud, constant, beeping sound. I really enjoyed talking with the practitioner, and enjoyed the treatment, but I could’t relax fully nor pay attention to the conversation 100% due to the beeping. After a few minutes I asked if there was a way to turn off the sound. She had never really paid attention to the beeping! She was able to turn it down, but not off. It became more tolerable, but if it was an hour session vs the actual 20 minute one, I don’t know if I would have wanted to return. Interestingly, once she was made aware of the beeping, she noted that she thinks about it frequently and was glad she turned it down.
It’s good to be very prepared before attending a medical appointment. Bringing lists with you is great, so you don’t get distracted and forget things. It’s helpful to have calm, quiet time before the appointment to calm your nervous system and get ready. Even having a cheat sheet of things to do if you get overwhelmed, like deep breathing, a quick meditation, visualizations, and going to your ‘happy place’ are great to use while in the waiting room or in the visit room while awaiting your practitioner.
These days it’s common to be asked to complete an intake or followup form online prior to your appointment. If there’s space for notes, it can be helpful to note your sensitivity and needs so it’s documented and someone may notice prior to your arrival.
And of course, if you don’t resonate with the energy or viewpoint or environment of your practitioner, it’s certainly reasonable to seek out another, if you can’t be accommodated. These days with many doctors in the healthcare arena being forced to see many more people in shorter time periods, it can be challenging to find someone who will really listen and help you feel heard. Remember, you’re wired this way, you’re not unreasonable or dramatic or too picky.
I recently started working with a new doctor, with whom I had an extensive conversation about my sensitivities and typical experiences, and it’s been SO validating and I’ve felt so heard when he begins a conversation about supplements or prescriptions by stating that due to my sensitivity, I’d probably want to start at the very lowest dose. Hallelujah!
Once your appointment is done, you can use some of your calming self-care tools or take yourself out to lunch or for a nice cup of tea. You did it!
If managing your healthcare appointments is still rough and you’d like to talk with someone about that and anything else that’s challenging you as a Highly Sensing Person, I’m here for you! Let’s chat.