General

The shame doctor

Have you ever been too embarrassed to ask your doctor something? Too scared to strip down and bare all? Have you ever considered a ‘shame doctor’?

Doctors have noticed a trend in patients seeing multiple doctors for specific health issues.  

Busselton Medical Practice general practitioner Tamsin Coutts believes the idea of having another doctor is very common and has major benefits.

Patients often feel embarrassed to bring up issues with their regular doctor. Photo: Catherine Massey.

Dr Coutts says she thinks the choice is good, but doesn’t think it should overtake good clinical care, which is what general practice is all about.

“I think that actually people go and see different doctors for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s to reduce the embarrassment of things like sexual infections, but also things like weight management, or not wanting their regular doctor to see certain body parts,” she said.  

In the late 1980s, US psychiatrist Donald Nathanson said shame makes us so uncomfortable that we will go to great lengths to avoid it. The rise of shame doctors in 2019 seems to prove the point.

Dr Coutts says she sees many potential pitfalls and limitations when it comes to people having more than one doctor.

“Documentation and follow ups can be lost if you’re going to a different practice and this can be quite detrimental,” she says.

Dr Coutts says she would rather have a patient see any doctor about a concerning medical problem than no doctor at all.

Dr Tasmin Coutts says a wide variety of patients see a shame doctor.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, found the most common subjects people feel shame about are weight and sex.

The researchers found that these feelings of guilt often resulted in people avoiding the doctor completely.

Doctors prefer you see any doctor than no-one at all.
Photo: Catherine Massey.

Twenty-year-old student Kelsey Quick from Margaret River says she has two doctors, one to handle her more common medical issues, and one to tackle her more sensitive business.

Kelsey says she has no problem opening up to her regular doctor but feels she may be judged for disclosing certain issues.

“I see a second doctor for things I feel my regular doctor would judge me on,” she says.

Twenty-year-old Bunbury apprentice Max Munro agrees with Kelsey.

He says it would be more convenient to see one doctor but prefers to keep certain elements of his life separate from each other.

“I have a doctor for regular stuff like when I hurt myself at football, and I’ll have another that I will see for more personal stuff.”

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