This month I have talked a lot about becoming a partner with your doctor in your health care. In order to receive the best medical care, it is essential for you to be aware of your condition and to follow through on instructions, but your doctor also must treat you with respect and be willing to listen. Without mutual respect, you won’t get the best care you can.
I am not saying to quickly “jump ship” for any little problem, but to assess the situation and decide whether, for you, a change would provide you with better care. Remember, the better the fit between you and your doctor, the better your chances of managing ADHD in your life. While this article was written with ADHD in mind, it certainly is true with all chronic conditions. The following are 10 reasons that you may consider searching for a new doctor.
1) You Feel Uncomfortable Asking Questions
Let’s face it, one of the reasons you go to the doctor is to find answers to your questions. You look to your doctor to be an “expert,” someone who is knowledgeable about your condition. But some doctors discourage or never seem to have the time to answer your questions. Many doctors set aside the last few minutes of your appointment to answer any questions you have and some will stop throughout the exam to find out if you have any questions. But others dismiss your questions with a brief “yes” or “no” or let you know, “that’s not important.” If you don’t feel comfortable asking questions, it may be time to look for a doctor that welcomes your questions because they believe an informed patient is the best type of patient.
2) Your Doctor Never Seems to Know Your History
Whether you are going to the doctor for a medication check or need to discuss a certain issue, you expect your doctor to know your history. It is impossible for doctors to remember each patient, but your chart should provide your doctor with enough information to remember your previous visit and your history of dealing with ADHD symptoms. If you seem to start at the beginning of your story at every visit, or feel like you need to continually repeat what was discussed at the prior visit, you may want to find a doctor who keeps better notes and can more easily track your progress and help you create a plan of action for the future.
3) Your Treatment Isn’t Working
You may have been going to the doctor for several years but you feel like you are still dealing with the same issues you were when you started. Your treatment doesn’t seem to be working and yet your doctor hasn’t changed anything and hasn’t suggested any new ideas for managing symptoms. Even if you suggest that you don’t feel your medication or therapy is working, the doctor insists you need to keep working at it. You might stay because you feel guilty or because you feel it is your fault that you can’t manage your symptoms. If you haven’t seen any improvements in your life because ADHD symptoms are still getting in the way and your doctor hasn’t come up with any different ideas, it may be time to look for someone who is willing to find different avenues of treatment.
4) Your Doctor is Angry or Defensive
You might wonder why your doctor is suggesting a specific medication or treatment, or he is not willing to discuss alternative treatments or diagnosis. While many alternative treatments are unproven, your doctor should be willing to talk to you about the pros and cons of different types of treatment. However, if you have a doctor who becomes angry or defensive when you question his suggested treatments or when you want additional information on other methods, then it may be time to make a change. Your doctor should be willing to talk to you about all different types of treatment to find the one that works the best for you.
5) You Always Feel Like You Are Being Rushed
We all know that most doctors’ offices allow for 10 to 15 minutes for each appointment. But we also know that there have been times we were left waiting for a long time because other patient’s required extra time. We expect the same consideration when we need a few additional minutes to have something explained or our questions answered. If your doctor checks his watch or stops the appointment at the end of 10 or 15 minutes, dismissing any further questions or concerns, then you might want to look for a doctor willing to give you the time you need to best help yourself with your ADHD symptoms.
6) Your Doctor Just Wants You to Take Medication and Doesn’t Talk About Additional Methods of Managing Symptoms
We all know that medication is useful in helping to reduce symptoms of ADHD. But we also know that medication doesn’t cure ADHD and doesn’t take away the symptoms 100 percent. We know that we need to take responsibility for finding behavioral ways of managing symptoms and we may need additional help in coming up with the best ideas. If your doctor simply fills out your prescription each month, month after month, without ever talking about lifestyle and behavioral choices that may help you better manage symptoms, it may be time to find someone with a more rounded vision of treating ADHD.
7) You Don’t Trust Your Doctor’s Ability
Each time you leave your doctor’s office, you shake your head, wondering if he even has a clue about treating ADHD. Although many patients with ADHD are quite knowledgeable about the condition, its symptoms and its treatments, you want a doctor who doesn’t look to you for answers. You need a doctor who reads the latest research, attends conferences and is overall very knowledgeable about symptoms of ADHD, how they often interfere with daily activities and knows what types of medications are available. If you don’t believe your doctor is a capable medical professional, it is time to find someone who does evoke your trust and confidence.
8) Your Doctor is Unsympathetic
We’ve all met people who believe “if you just try a little harder…” Doctors are people too, so there are probably a few of them out there that blame you, at least in some way, for the severity of your symptoms. If your doctor is unsympathetic toward the impact of ADHD symptoms on your life or is cold and uncaring about your struggles, it may be time to find a doctor who better understands ADHD and all that goes along with a diagnosis of ADHD.
9) You Wait Way Too Long to Either Get an Appointment or to See the Doctor at Your Appointment
For appointments such as med checks, you should plan on contacting the office at least two weeks in advance. Doctor’s offices normally leave a few open appointments for emergencies each day, but time slots for routine appointments are often filled up weeks in advance. Talk with your doctor’s office about how long in advance you should call for an appointment. While a few weeks is pretty standard, having to make your appointment months in advance is probably unreasonable. Once you get to the doctor’s office, how long do you normally wait before seeing the doctor? While a long wait once in a while is acceptable because it signals that your doctor is willing to spend extra time with patients when they need time, unreasonable wait times at every visit eats away your time. If you are spending too long in the waiting room at every visit, you might want to see someone else, someone who values your time as well.
10) Your Doctor Never Asks for Your Input
If your doctor doesn’t listen to you, dismisses your concerns and questions, or never asks you questions about your symptoms and your life, he is treating the condition of ADHD, not your ADHD. And we know that even though there are some main symptoms of ADHD, it appears differently in each person. You want a doctor who will treat your version of ADHD, not a generic version. If your doctor consistently ignores what you have to say or isn’t willing to listen and respect your input, it may be time to find someone who is.
This list is certainly not complete, there are many other reasons to change doctors: they may not take your insurance, the office may be inconvenient to get to, communication in between office visits is difficult, etc. But the most important is respect. If you have a doctor-patient relationship built on respect, then the rest will fall into place.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.