You may consider yourself an honest person, but we all lie a little bit. (If you say you don’t, then congratulations; you’re now officially a liar.) Whether it’s assuring your best friend that yes, her drastic new bleached blond pixie cut looks great, or telling your boss that you definitely didn’t get that 2 a.m. email, we all fib a little bit, whether it’s to protect our loved ones or ourselves. But why do we lie to our doctors? They’re not our friends, family or employers, and they only have our best interests in mind. Still, we lie.
We lie because we think they’re judging us, or because we don’t want to get lectured, or because we want to sound like we’re model patients. Three women told us about what they consider to be harmless fibs they told (or continue to tell) their doctors. Tell us if you think they should ‘fess up, or if they should keep telling their version of the truth.
(Names have been changed to spare lying patients from the wrath of their suspicious medical professionals.)
The Lie: When Caren had to get physical therapy for a leg injury a few years ago, her therapist ordered her to cut her carb intake in half because he said carbs cause dehydration. But even after she hobbled into a session after scarfing a large bowl of pasta, she said that yes, indeed she had cut the carbs.
Why She Did It: Caren’s not quite sure why she didn’t tell the truth, but she thinks it’s because she was so angry that she was spending a lot of money out of pocket and the therapy wasn’t working. She had a hard time believing she wasn’t improving because she ate a soft pretzel the week before, so she lied so the guy couldn’t blame her crappy progress on her bagel habit.
How Bad Is It: Caren was in pain, but she wasn’t being treated for a life-threatening condition. Instead of lying, though, she could have just looked for a new physical therapist.
The Lie: Several years ago Anna had a life-threatening pulmonary embolism, and since then she’s had to manage her condition through blood-thinning medication and weekly blood tests. Still, when her doctor asks her how much she drank the week before, she always low-balls her estimate.
Why She Does It: Anna is in her early 30s and, after dealing with this condition for about five years, she says she’s decided that she’s not ready to give up her social life just yet.
How Bad Is It: Anna’s doctor adjusts her medication according to her blood test results, so she says she’s not risking her health by rounding down three beers to two. The truth is in the numbers.
The Lie: Selena had an extremely conservative gynecologist who asked her if she still had the same sexual partner as the last time she was in. She lied and said yes.
Why She Did It: She didn’t want to be judged. In Selena’s mind, she didn’t think it was any of her doctor’s business who she was sleeping with so long as she was being safe and getting tested for STDs.
How Bad Is It: It’s important to feel comfortable talking to your doctor about your sexual activity, but unless you’re sleeping with half of Match.com and not using protection, how much does your gyno really have to know? Still, the better move is to do what Selena did: Get a recommendation from a friend and ditch the prudish doc.
In the end, none of these women had particularly life threatening issues, so their white lies caused little harm. But getting in the habit of lying to health-care professionals is a bad idea. If you find yourself wanting to lie to your doctor, do what Selena did: Find a new one.