The Worst Health Lies to Tell at the Doctor’s Office

Stepping foot in the doctor’s office can bring on a heap of unwanted anxiety. From pending test results to painful shots to learning whether you’ll need to be on prescription medications for the rest of your life, it can be a scary place. But don’t let your emotions fog your better judgment. While you may think it’s not that big a deal to tell a little white lie, fibbing to the doc can put you at greater risk for additional health problems down the road. Without further ado, here are nine of the worst lies people tell their health care providers.

1. How many drinks you have

sad man with drinks in front of him

Lying about your alcohol intake needs to stop ASAP. | iStock.com

OK, it’s time to fess up. How many drinks do you really have on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis? If you’re feeling a little flushed, don’t worry, you’re not alone. But, it’s time to come clean, as fibbing here will get you nowhere.

Before you go beating yourself up about this, don’t feel too bad; even doctors themselves can miscalculate the number of drinks they down on a daily basis. “Overdrinking and underestimating intake affect most of us,” The Guardian says. “Doctors are no different.” So, just how can it affect your overall health?

Next: Your little lie could get you into some trouble.

The harm it could cause

Doctor drawing ecg heartbeat chart

Too much alcohol can wreak havoc on the heart. | iStock.com/BrianAJackson

Drinking in excess could lead to various health problems, and even death. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol can affect a person’s mood and behavior, and drinking too much over time can lead to damage of the heart, liver, and immune system. And that’s just a handful of the health issues it can cause.

Next: Have you been keeping details of you sex life secret?

2. Sexual history

female doctor writing notes while talking to a patient

Being open and honest about your sexual past is crucial. | iStock.com

Lying about your sexual past is never, we repeat NEVER, a good idea. Your sexual past is nothing to be ashamed of, yet far too many people feel the need to hide certain details from the doc. However, being as open and honest as possible is undoubtedly your best bet in this situation.

Next: More on the importance of good sexual health.

3. Not using condoms every single time

Couple talking to a doctor

Your doctor needs to know what kind of protection, if any, you’re using. | iStock.com

Yes, using a condom every single time you have sex can be a challenge. But it’ll save you a whole lot of grief. While those in committed, long term, monogamous relationships may not want or need to use protection, people who aren’t in this situation often need to take different precautions to ensure they’re keeping themselves safe.

According to Sherry Ross, M.D., patients aren’t always so forthcoming on this particular topic. “One of the most common lies I hear among all my single sexually active patients, no matter what their age, is ‘of course my boyfriend always wears a condom every time we have sex,'” Ross told Prevention. When it comes to sexual health, just be honest.

Next: The importance of practicing safe sex.

The harm it could cause

Couple having problems in relationship

Being honest about condom use is the only way your doctor will know whether to test you. | iStock.com/nd3000

When you don’t use condoms, you’re opening yourself up to the possibility of contracting an STD. Because condoms prevent pregnancy and STDs — although the only 100% guarantee is abstinence — failing to use them, or using them improperly, could cause more harm than good. Is a fleeting moment of passion with a sexual partner really worth it? Probably not.

Next: You are what you eat.

4. Your diet

junk food consisting of fries, onion ring,s chips, soda, and a burger

If your diet is made up of junk food, your doctor will be able to tell. | iStock.com

Even some of the healthiest eaters have a cheat day every once in a while. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about those who undoubtedly fall into the unhealthy eater/terrible diet category. And unfortunately, fibbing about how fit you are seems to be a common practice for some patients. According to WebMD, if you’re guilty of lying about having a healthy, balanced diet, you’re not alone.

Next: It’s time to fess up about your eating habits.

The harm it could cause

Male Diabetic Checking Blood Sugar

Lying could lead your doctor to over or under diagnosing and prescribing. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

“People often exaggerate the extent to which they practice good [eating] habits,” Brian Doyle, M.D., told WebMD. Being upfront, however, is crucial, and for several reasons. “Telling your doctor you eat correctly when you really don’t could [result in] being prescribed a medication to control your cholesterol, for example. This could produce side effects and be less effective than simply continuing to have good eating habits,” Doyle added.

Next: Still smoking? It’s time to come clean.

5. Cigarette smoking

Woman smoker smoking

Lying to your doctor about smoking is never a good idea. | iStock.com/Terroa

Not to sound too judgmental, but if you haven’t heard, smoking causes cancer. The general public, let alone doctors, are well aware of this. Even if you are trying to quit, you’re not doing yourself any favors by lying to the doc and saying you’ve gone cold turkey. But it turns out, lots of people are doing just that.

Next: The real effects of smoking you need to know about.

The harm it could cause

3D illustration of Lungs

Smoking can lead to lung cancer. | iStock.com/yodiyim

One study conducted in 2013 found one in 10 smokers withheld the truth about their tobacco use from their health care providers. Smoking comes with serious health risks, and if your doctor is unaware of how many cigarettes, or packs, you smoke a day, there could be a problem. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us, smoking can lead to lung cancer, heart disease, and death.

Next: This next point can be equally as damaging to your health. 

6. Drug use

man lost in depression

Drug use can lead a person to a dark, dark place. | iStock.com

This one is similar to the point above, but definitely comes with more of a stigma. Drug use is, after all, illegal. Aside from smoking marijuana in states where weed is legal, illegal substances are a serious concern. Coming clean to your doctor, therefore, may be the most difficult task of all.

Keep in mind, however, that doctors are there to help, not scold (or at least that’s how it should be). Drug addiction is a very real issue, and if you put trust in your doctor, he or she will be able to provide the best resources and treatment options available.

Next: There’s more to addiction than illegal substances alone.

7. Prescription medication misuse

Pharmaceutical medicament. White pills and syringe filled with cure isolated on wooden background

Abusing prescription drugs counts as drug use, too. | iStock.com/monstArrr_

Just because they’re prescription medications, doesn’t mean it’s open season on all things FDA-approved. Unfortunately, though, we’re in the middle of a pain-killer crisis. Patients can get their hands on multiple prescriptions from various doctors, or score pills from others all too easily.

Although this point could have been lumped into the previous one, this problem alone is big enough to warrant its own spot on our list. All you need to do is search for “opioid epidemic,” and you’ll be inundated with articles. If you’re interested in learning more about the details and resources available, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has tons of information on the subject.

Next: Just how damaging is drug misuse?

The harm it could cause

Lying down and sad

Don’t lose hope; there is a way out of drug addiction. | iStock.com/Marjan_Apostolovic

Any person who’s ever known someone with a drug problem knows just how impossible the battle can be. Not only is that person struggling with their own addiction, but they’re affecting those they love. A slew of mental and physical health problems go hand-in-hand with drug addition, too, and some lose hope about their ability to get clean.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, heart disease, stroke, HIV/AIDS, and certain types of cancer are just a few of the possible side effects of drug use. If you or someone you know is dealing with addiction, there is help available.

Next: Your family history is important, so get your facts straight.

8. Family history

Medical physician doctor woman writing with laptop on table

Your doctor will be happy you gave him or her the honest truth. | iStock.com

This likely isn’t intentional, but still, knowing the details of your family history so you’re able to relay them to your doctor is imperative. Perhaps you haven’t done your homework or asked your parents about it. Maybe breast cancer runs in your family, but you failed to mention it to your doctor. Without knowing this, your doctor has no reason to recommend you start getting mammograms earlier than usual. And this could lead to huge problems down the road.

Next: Withholding family health history from your doctor could be detrimental to your health. 

The harm it could cause

cancer treatment

If you don’t disclose family history to your doctor, it may be too late. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Knowing your detailed family history, as the National Institutes of Health says, is key to steering you in the right direction for certain preventative care. In fact, some cancer screenings can even save your life, so don’t skimp on the detailed past of your family’s health history.

9. How much pain you’re in

Young Woman With Stomach Ache Lying On Bed

Even if your symptoms come and go, it’s important to tell your doctor. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

You don’t want to be that person crying wolf every time you scrape your knee, but there’s a fine line between overreacting and suppressing your pain. Seeing as it’s best to aim for just the middle, you’ll want to be as direct as possible about any pain you’ve been experiencing, as there as some symptoms too serious to ignore.

And because it can be tough to articulate pain when you’re not actually feeling it in that moment, it may help to keep a pain journal over time, so you can discuss it with your doctor when your appointment time comes.

The next time you find yourself stepping through those office doors, make a pact with yourself to tell the whole truth. Don’t leave out any dirty details, as being totally honest is the best way to ensure you keep living a happy, healthy life.