Teenagers, Doctors and Privacy
Ask your doctor what his or her policy is regarding keeping your discussion and treatment confidential. You have the right to privacy regarding sexually transmitted diseases and contraception. If your life (or someone else's) is at risk, the doctor may be required to disclose private information to keep you safe; he or she will tell you prior to this disclosure, in almost all cases (with exceptions such as if you were unconscious). Billing may or may not be confidential. So please ask your doctor if you have any concerns.
Most doctors realize how tough it is to be a teenager. Beyond the emotional and physical changes you are going through, numerous pressures and stresses arise from school, home, extracurricular activities, jobs and friends. Some of the health problems teens are embarrassed to discuss with their doctors concern sex, drugs, eating problems, weight concerns, depression and suicidal thoughts. Below are a few thoughts that should put you more at ease the next time you talk with your doctor:
- Keep in mind that your doctor is trained to help you with your health problems and check out the things that worry you most.
- Ignoring a potential health problem will not make it go away. In fact, it might make the problem worse and even result in a permanent health problem. So even if you feel uncomfortable talking with your doctor about a sensitive health issue, keep in mind that your few moments of feeling uncomfortable are outweighed by the health benefit of addressing a potential health problem early in its course.
- Remember that your doctor has seen your health problem or fielded your health question hundreds of times before. Your doctor will not be alarmed or surprised by any health issue you wish to discuss with him or her.
- Your doctor is interested in keeping you healthy, not in judging you. A good doctor will listen respectfully, examine, educate and treat you—not criticize you.
- Finally, it’s up to you to be honest and open about any health issue that is of concern to you. Your doctor can best help you if he or she knows what health issues are bothering you. If you cannot put your concerns into words, try opening the conversation by listing your problems, symptoms and questions on a piece of paper and handing it to your doctor.