Doctors Don't Understand How Intimidating They Are

October 28, 2011 Natasha Tracy

I've seen quite a few doctors and I've talked to quite a few people who've seen quite a few doctors and one thing that constantly comes up - and decreases patient care - is a negative relationship between patients and doctors / psychiatrists. There are many reasons people have a poor relationship with their doctor, but one of them is that people are intimidated by their doctor. And doctors never seem to understand, or compensate, for that. So, quite simply, we have to.

Doctors Are Intimidating

Everything about a doctor's visit is intimidating. You're there because you're sick, after all, which automatically puts you in a weak position. You put on top of that the sterility of a hospital or office, plus the fact the doctor holds the knowledge that you need and do not have, and you're set up to be anxious from the moment you even think about seeing a doctor.

mp9004436161What's more, people with a mental illness have many fears around doctors / psychiatrists and treatment. Many of these fears are justified. Patients, for example, know that doctors have the power to admit them without their consent. This terrifies people. Even if a doctor has never done this to you and even if they've never thought of doing it to you, the thought exists in the back of a patient's mind that it could happen.

And then there's the judgements doctors make over patients. How "crazy" a patient is, how sick, how much help they need, what kind of help it should be. The patient is at the whim of the doctor's assessment. The doctor can simply decide to fire a patient, or remove a medication and the patient has little they can do about it. It's tough not to feel frightened in that situation.

And then there's the power imbalance set up in the actual exam room itself. They are Dr. So-and-so, while you are simply Anne or Andy. They are in white coat or a suit while you are in a t-shirt and jeans. They are in a comfortable chair, possibly behind a desk, while you sit in something inexpensive and plastic. Everything in that room seems to prove how powerless and little you really are.

Doctors Don't Understand that Intimidation

For whatever reason, doctors fail to understand this intimidation. It's not necessarily the case that these factors are in place to purposefully intimidate, but they do, nonetheless. Doctors seem to forget who they are and the role they play as compared to who the patient is and the role they play. Doctors don't understand how hard it is just to be in the room, pouring your symptoms out, and letting them be judged. Doctors forget what it's like to be on the other end of the stethoscope.

We Shouldn't Let That Intimidation Get to Us

This is really frustrating for me, as someone who talks to people about doctor relationships all the time. Because the ideal relationship with a doctor is one of equals. Yes, they have the knowledge, but so do you - you know about you. Yes, they have the power, but so do you - you can fire them. I suppose there will never be true equality in the relationship simply because of what the relationship is designed to accomplish - help a sick person get better; however, I don't think that means we should let the intimidating factors affect us so much.

While I understand it's completely reasonable to be intimidated by doctors, and the whole system of healthcare, I think it's important we fight that. It's our own fear that does it, which means we have control over conquering it. I think it's OK to acknowledge how intimidating it feels so that we can move past those feelings. Because good doctors don't actually want to intimidate you - they want a relationship of equals. And we can do our part to make that happen.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2011, October 28). Doctors Don't Understand How Intimidating They Are, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Alan Stone
December, 15 2016 at 1:54 pm

Not seeing an MD for many years and then being on Medicare, i did not realize how rude and DELIBERATELY intimidating. Doctors are to day. Whether they learn it in medical school or by word of mouth ., they will treat you like shit unless they think you have clout, being a big shot, rich or a journalist '

sana quijada
November, 1 2011 at 5:07 am

hello folks. this is good fodder and i'm taking it in. thank u for speaking out. too many of us work alone when we would all do better working as a team. keep on.

Dr Musli Ferati
October, 29 2011 at 7:51 am

The first condition to establish good relationship with patient is the psychological maturity of personality to doctor. The same is worth for the personality of patient. But this combination in common medical practice is very rare or impossible. Therefore, it is the professional duty and obligation of doctor to manage properly the relation between patient and doctor. The patient isn't responsible for smooth-course of this subtle contact where one person is is sick and the other is expert to this sickness. However, doctor should be with competency and authority toward professional duty, but not authoritative to his patient. Hence, doctors often were deceived when treated their patient thinking that they are owner of life to patients. By this nonprofessional deed the most number of doctors frighten the patient, making the relation between doctor and patient antitherapeutic.

Natasha Tracy
October, 29 2011 at 6:25 am

Hi Michael,
There are only two things I can think to do, and only if you're pretty darn serious.
1. You can make a complaint to the American College of Physicians or the American Psychiatric Association.
2. You can talk to the press.
But keep in mind that making an inordinate fuss could make you a bit of a pariah in the field. It may not be fair, but I suspect it's true.
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
October, 29 2011 at 6:21 am

Many of us have been in the situation where we realize we know more than our doctors. Happens to me all the time :) But, that doesn't mean our knowledge doesn't have holes in it, holes that a doctor can fill. We're not perfect and unless we've been to medical school, they will always know things we don't.
So no, you are not on your own. Moreover, other doctors will be able to help you more or in different ways. So rest-assured, help is out there.
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
October, 29 2011 at 6:18 am

Hi Bipolar Pt.
Not a bad rule. And yes, I could see a doctor being very tripped up by that.
- Natasha

Michael Z
October, 29 2011 at 4:17 am

I saw a new Dr. Tuesday to replace my old psychiatrist. This doctor was bar none the worst doctor, mental health not solely inclusive, I've ever been to. He was aggressive & rude from the moment I walked in. I told him that a certain medication did not work & despite that, he was hell-bent on prescribing it (label only - no dice, doc.) He told me to stop taking everything else I was on without weaning me off of them & in a day & a half I developed a migraine that sent me to ER. I still haven't gotten rid of it even though I've put myself back on the med (topomax.)
I'm wondering what kind of actions I can take at this point. I have since gone online & reviewed comments about him. I'm not the first to have this issue. He will, of course, be fired, but I'd like to file official complaint(s) due to his manner & his Big Pharma kick-back methods of prescribing meds. What recourse do I have? Do you have any advice?

October, 28 2011 at 6:40 pm

yes , but there is also the point and realisation i have just had that the blessed doctor knows less about your illness than you do and that you can help yourself better cos the services around you are **** and have experienced better ones in the past ! Now that is depressing for me cos now i know I really am on my own!

Bipolar Pt.
October, 28 2011 at 4:15 pm

I have a rule. If the doctor comes into the room and calls me by my first name I call him by his first name. If he calls me Mr. X, then I call him Dr. Y.
It's amazing to my how many physicians get totally thrown by this.

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