By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
I recently received a press release that surprised me. In part, it said, “It’s an open secret in healthcare communities: Patients lie.”
I suspect that the reasons are many. Some lie because they don’t want to admit unhealthy behaviors to their doctors. Others, by not voicing a concern, subconsciously deny its existence. Still others make their own determinations as to what’s important and what’s not, lying to keep from revealing what they deem to be irrelevant.
Yet I think I understand this. I’ve made casual comments to doctors, and the next thing I know they want to schedule me for a series of tests unrelated to my visit. Or they prescribe a medicine for a minor issue, and the drug’s side effects are worse than my minor ailment.
Sometimes these trivialities are verbally regurgitated visit after visit, long after I’ve forgotten them. As in, “Are you still suffering from blurred vision?”
I respond, “That was three years ago, and I haven’t accidently poked myself in the eye since then.”
Too often doctors only half listen. Once they hear a certain keyword, they tune out the details that surround it. They leap to a diagnosis or treatment for a problem that isn’t there.
Sometimes when we lie to doctors, it’s simply to keep them from reaching a wrong conclusion and subjecting us to needless tests and costs.