How to Talk to Your Doctor about Sex

Doctor Listening to Patient Talk About Her Medical SymptomsIn an ideal world, the doctor should take the lead, ask questions, and be there to address any concerns you have about your body. The reality is that many doctors are just as uncomfortable talking about sexual concerns as the people they treat. What’s more, a leading study on sexuality education in medical schools shows that only 42.6% of medical schools in the United States and Canada train medical students in sexual dysfunction. A lack of training in human sexuality could lead many physicians to feel insecure about their competence in treating sexual issues.

It’s important to be proactive in your health care no matter how skilled, warm, and compassionate your doctor may be. A little skillful strategy on your part can minimize any awkwardness. Here are some tips for speaking with your doctor about your sexual concerns:

  1. Advocate for yourself. Your time with the doctor is limited and you’re paying good money for it, so make the most of it. Recognize that your sexual health is important and make a plan to speak up. If you do not speak up for yourself, who will?
  2. Come prepared with questions printed or written on a piece of paper. This will help you in the moment to be concise, precise, and confident. How many times have you walked out of an exam room and remembered one more, quick question for the doctor? When people are put on the spot or are nervous, they may forget what they wanted to talk about. Having talking points and questions written down will help you stay focused and organized.
  3. Before seeing the doctor, tell the nurse that you have some sexual health concerns that you hope to address. The nurse can prepare the doctor to think about and discuss your specific concerns. The doctor may even prompt you by asking about them. This will make it easier to open up.
  4. Tell the doctor that you brought some concerns with you. Ask the doctor if he or she would like to address them now or later/after your exam. Most doctors welcome an organized and well-informed patient. By asking the doctor what he or she prefers, you are helping him/her to feel as comfortable as possible and signal that you will not wait until the end to discuss something important. When big issues are delayed, doctors sometimes feel pressed for time and may be inclined to rush things.
  5. Ask for a second opinion. If you do not feel satisfied with the doctor’s assessment, do not feel heard, or do not feel that he or she addressed your issues sufficiently, ask for a referral for a second opinion. Most doctors welcome another physician’s input.
  6. Find another expert. If you feel uncomfortable with your physician, consider switching doctors. If you contact a local sex therapist, he or she should be able to recommend physicians in your area who are particularly skilled and trained in sexual health.

Your sexual health is important, and the sad truth is that many people’s sexual issues are left untreated because they are too embarrassed to speak up. You deserve to get the help you need to lead a happier and more satisfying life.

Reference:

Solursh, D.S., Ernst, J.B., Lewis, R.W., Prisant, L.M., Mills, T.M., Solursh, L.P., Jarvis, R.G., and Salazar, W.H. (2003). The Human Sexuality Education of Physicians in North American Medical Schools. International Journal of Impotency Research, 15 (Suppl 5). Pp: S41-S45.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Mieke Rivka Sidorsky, LCSW-C, CST, therapist in Silver Spring, Maryland

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Harriett

    Harriett

    November 19th, 2014 at 11:23 AM

    If I don’t feel like I can talk to my doctor about issues like this then why on earth am I still seeing this person? This should be the person that I can come to with any questions that I have about anything, and sure there will be times that things feel a little too embarrassing, but hey, that’s what they signed up for when they went to medical school. No, I strongly believe that this is the person who should make you feel like you can come to them with anything and even if they can’t help they should at least be able to point you in the direction of someone who can. It might not always be too comfortable, but they should put your mind at ease and make you feel a little less embarrassed and get you the help and answers that you need.

  • Gavin

    Gavin

    November 19th, 2014 at 8:52 PM

    This happened to me years ago. I was too shy to speak up and my doctor never bothered to ask either. All in all, it ended up with me losing out on info and stuff that could be helpful at that stage.

    Pretty sure I’m not alone in this. Turning to the internet at such a stage did give me info, but the human touch was lost. Not everybody may be lucky enough to find reliable info online, there are half truths out there as well.

  • Walker

    Walker

    November 20th, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    Yeah, if you give them a little heads up then the doctor may be able to direct the conversation in a way that will leave you much more open and willing to discussing some of these kinds of things with him or her. I think that it is important to feel comfortable enough with a physician to speak up about t he things that are troubling you, because they may have a very easy solution to something that you thought was so difficult. Or that might raise a little red flag when you think that it is not serious at all. Either way, this is the time and the place to speak up about what is going on, because who else is going to have as many resources and suggestions as he or she should?

  • adam

    adam

    November 20th, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    Maybe I am wrong but there are a lot of women out there who just do not at all feel comfortable talking about sex and they never will regardless of who it is with.

  • Hannah

    Hannah

    November 21st, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    Whenever I know that I am seeing the doctor I make sure to write down any questions or concerns ahead of time. For me this is so much easier than trying to remember what I wanted to talk about because usually I get in that exam room, he comes in for a few minutes and then he’s gone. But if I come with my list I have it out and ready, and even when he answers quickly, I at least know that he has an idea of what my concerns are and he can make notes of that. It might not be the ideal for many who want that free flowing conversation, but I am always afraid that I will forget something that writing it all out ensures that I don’t do.

  • carol anne

    carol anne

    November 22nd, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    What makes this so hard for me is that I was raised in a home when growing up where talking about sex as definitely taboo, something that good girls certainly did not do.
    So to think about having a conversation like this is hard for me even now as an adult just because of the things that I was always taught about sex, or not taught about sex I guess you could say.
    For those of you out there who think that this should be so easy, that’s great, I am glad that it is for you, but please at least think about the different upbringings that some of the rest of us endured and let us have our moment of discomfort without being all preachy and judgmental.

  • heather

    heather

    November 24th, 2014 at 3:49 AM

    not the most comfy conversation but probably one of the most necessary

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