How much do you drink? Are you taking your medicine? Do you
have risky sex? And if you think your doctor would be displeased with your
answers to these questions, would you tell the truth?
Oftentimes people plainly lie to their doctors, omit certain
details, or shade the truth to make their behavior seem more acceptable. As the
narrator of Denis Johnson's novel Jesus' Son confesses, "It's always
been my tendency to lie to doctors, as if good health consisted only of the
ability to fool them."
Mark Liszt, a food broker from Los Angeles, has had operations on both knees and a toe. A doctor has suggested a total replacement of his right knee, but he’s afraid it will affect his ability to play ball. At 59, Liszt can’t stop. On Tuesdays and Fridays, he plays basketball with guys who are sometimes half his age. On Saturday, he hobbles around all day with serious knee pain. Friends and family have referred him to doctors, but he’s stayed away. “I don’t want to be told what a fool I am,” he says...
If you're serious about your health, however, honesty is always
the best policy.
"If you cannot be honest with your health care provider,
you may be doing yourself a grave disservice," says Stephen Goldstone, MD,
a professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and medical
director of GayHealth.com.
A Beer ... or Six?
No one wants to admit to having a drinking problem, or even to
seem to have a problem. You may lie about how much you drink, even if you drink
moderately, for fear of being labeled a lush.
More than 14 drinks per week, or more than four drinks at a sitting for
More than seven drinks per week, or more than three drinks at a sitting for
A standard drink generally is defined as a 12-ounce beer, a
5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
If you drink too much, you know you'll get a lecture about
cutting down, so you feel like there's no point in being honest about it. But
doctors aren't there to scold -- they're there to help.
Many people who imbibe to excess aren't just living it up. They
may be self-medicating their insomnia, anxiety, or depression. In such cases,
booze isn't a good remedy, and a doctor can find better ways to help whatever
There are plenty of other reasons not to lie about your
drinking, not the least of which is that alcohol and many medications,
including over-the-counter drugs, can be dangerous when mixed. Maybe you've
heard the story about the guy who suffered liver failure from taking Tylenol
with wine? It's not a myth. His name is Antonio Benedi, and it happened in
The same thing goes not only for drinking, but also for smoking
tobacco and using illicit drugs. Everyone knows that smoking causes cancer, and
that you can die from an overdose of heroin, but any chemicals you ingest
recreationally might affect you in other ways you haven't thought of.
"You as a patient don't know what's significant,"
Goldstone says. "You don't know what your health care provider needs to
know, and it's best to be honest."