For the first time in my non-collegiate adult life, I recently got health care. The first thing I did was book an appointment with a therapist. The second thing I did was request my college medical records, to confirm my timeline of medication and what my dosages were. But they included more information than I’d expected. Like notes from the doctor, which reminded me that when I was 20 years old and seeking medical help and drug therapy for my mental illness (I’m bipolar), I was also lying through my teeth.
I’d lied about little things, like how much stress I was experiencing (I low-balled it), whether or not I felt happy in my relationship (I didn’t, but I said I did), how much I drank (I’m pretty sure almost everyone lies about this, judging by my current therapist’s expression when I told him honestly how much alcohol I consume); but I also lied about important stuff, too. Including, but not limited to, whether or not, during a period of depression, I’d ever considered suicide. I had, more than once, but said I hadn’t.
This time around, because I’m a grown-ass woman and because I am actually interested in getting treatment that helps me go about my daily life without mood imbalances that make it difficult to work and live and be a normal human being, I decided I wasn’t going to lie. And so far, I haven’t. Especially not about the things I’d lied about before.
But it’s not as though I’m alone in this dumb, potentially dangerous practice, whether it be in the therapist’s office, or with an actual medical doctor who can prescribe meds (I started with therapy because I’m not 100% positive I want to get back into medication just yet). People just seem to think it’s OK to lie about what’s going on with them.
Lying in therapy — where there’s less medical danger, but just as much potential emotional harm — is a lightly-researched subject. But we do know that people feel pretty comfortable lying to their medical doctors, which can include psychiatrists who may be giving them SSRIs or other mood-altering drugs. According to a survey from 2009, 13% of people admit to actively lying to their doctors, while 32% said they’d “stretched the truth.” And really, if 45% of people are, in some way, being untruthful to their doctor, isn’t it possible that they’re also lying to themselves and, as a result, the survey at hand?
Which brings up another important question: Why? Why do we lie, omit details, “massage” the facts, when we’re spending our time and money to get a professional opinion and, frequently, treatment for a problem that is causing us grief?