There are several ways a person can reduce anxiety before a doctor’s appointment. These include taking a friend or family member with them, practicing anxiety-reducing techniques, and more.

A person may experience anxiety in the lead-up to a medical appointment. This anxiety may also affect a person during an appointment, which may prevent them from seeking all of the relevant information and allowing a doctor to perform a physical exam.

Learning ways to manage anxiety can help to ease concerns before the appointment. Some techniques can also help a person to reduce anxiety during the appointment, helping them to ensure the appointment is as useful as possible.

This article discusses how a person can reduce anxiety before and during a medical appointment.

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A person may find they feel more anxious at certain times of the day. For example, some people may find that their anxiety is worse in the morning. If this is the case, a person may want to schedule their appointment for the afternoon or evening when they generally feel less anxious.

A person may also want to schedule their appointment when they have a less busy day, which may help with worries about being late to the appointment or the appointment running over.

Preparing for the appointment may help a person reduce their anxiety.

Writing down any questions, fears, or concerns about the appointment and any symptoms they are experiencing can help a person feel prepared.

Making sure a person knows the route they will take to the appointment and when they will need to leave to arrive on time may also help to reduce anxiety.

A person can build a good relationship with their doctor by visiting at least once a year for a routine checkup. The doctor can advise on whether the person may need routine checkups more frequently.

Building trust with a doctor can make a person feel less anxious over time.

A person may want to consider taking a friend, loved one, or someone they trust to an appointment for support.

This also means that the individual will not need to sit on their own in the waiting room before the appointment, and their companion may be able to provide them with adequate distraction from feelings of anxiety.

If a person is experiencing any symptoms, they may find it tempting to search the internet to try and self-diagnose the cause. An internet search may suggest a serious health condition that could make a person feel anxious or lead to “health anxiety.”

It is best to avoid searching online and to instead wait until the appointment to discuss any symptoms with a doctor and receive an accurate diagnosis.

Learn about health anxiety.

A person may want to consider taking something with them to help distract them in the waiting room.

Examples include:

  • books
  • magazines
  • handheld games consoles

If taking a child to an appointment, playing games such as “I spy” can help to distract them from feeling anxious.

A person may want to practice techniques such as mindfulness meditation and breathing techniques to help them relax before an appointment.

It may be useful to choose a time each day to practice mindfulness. This can help to make mindfulness part of the daily routine and help a person to reduce their anxiety when it arises.

Learn about mindfulness meditation for anxiety.

A person may want to consider seeking help from a mental health professional if they feel they are experiencing a phobia that may be contributing to their anxiety about medical appointments.

Examples of phobias include:

  • trypanophobia, which is a fear of needles
  • claustrophobia, which is a fear of enclosed spaces
  • iatrophobia, which is a fear of doctors or medical tests

A mental health professional can help a person to find ways to cope with these feelings both before and during the appointment.

Once a person arrives at the medical center, they can let the staff know that they are feeling anxious. The medical staff can then inform the doctor.

A person may want to take any notes they have made into the appointment with them so that they can refer to them as needed.

A person can also use anxiety-reducing techniques while in the appointment, including:

  • taking deep breaths
  • concentrating on relaxing the muscles in the body and not holding any areas of tension
  • practicing self-hypnosis techniques such as counting and visualization

The cause of anxiety before or during a medical appointment can be due to several factors. It could be due to the uncertainty about what the appointment will involve. A person may also have a known or suspected medical condition that is causing them to experience anxiety.

A person may also have a phobia of doctors and medical staff. This is known as iatrophobia and may be due to a person fearing the following:

  • a doctor diagnosing them with an illness
  • undergoing a medical exam
  • the reaction of a doctor
  • barriers to further care

Anxiety can also affect readings at the appointment. For example, “white coat syndrome” is when a person’s blood pressure increases as a result of anxiety due to the appointment itself.

White coat syndrome is fairly common and accounts for approximately 25–30% of people attending further appointments for high blood pressure.

Taking steps to reduce anxiety before and during the appointment may help to reduce the risk of elevated blood pressure readings.

Read more about white coat syndrome.

There are several ways a person can help reduce their anxiety before a medical appointment. These can include planning ahead, using distractions, and practicing anxiety-reducing techniques such as deep breathing.

A person may also want to consider contacting a mental health professional about their anxiety or any phobias they feel they may be experiencing. They can help the person to find ways to manage their anxiety before and during the appointment.