Too embarrassed to go to the doctor?

A photo of Naveen Puri
Medical Director, Bupa UK Insurance
12 January 2024
Next review due January 2027

Have you ever felt embarrassment when visiting the doctor? You're not alone. In fact, many people feel uneasy about discussing their health concerns or undergoing certain medical procedures. But remember that doctors have seen it all and there’s no need for you to feel embarrassed.

In this article, I will explore ways to help you feel more confident and at ease when visiting the doctor.

doctor and patient smiling in a consultation

Why do people not go to the GP?

There are certain aspects of our health that people often feel embarrassed to talk about. These include health concerns related to bowel habits, reproductive health, sexual health, and bladder problems.

But you should always talk to a GP if you have any symptoms that are worrying. These might be:

  • an ongoing change in bowel habits
  • blood in your poo
  • bleeding between periods
  • bleeding after sex
  • trouble with erections
  • post menopausal bleeding
  • any unusual rashes, swellings, or lumps on your body
  • problems with your genitals such as pain or unusual discharge

Age may be one of the factors affecting people’s decision to visit the doctor. For example, younger people may feel less likely to go to a doctor and instead look online.

For older people, issues such as incontinence may be an embarrassing problem to talk about – making people reluctant to speak up. But we should go to the doctor no matter what our age or health problem is.

You should also try to attend any screening programmes for cancer, even if you don’t have any symptoms. Below are the three main NHS screening programmes.

  • Cervical cancer screening – where a sample of cells are taken from your cervix and tested for HPV. This is also called a smear test. If you’re a woman aged between 25 and 64 and registered with a GP, you’ll be invited for screening every three or five years.
  • Breast screening – where X-rays of your breast are taken to check for possible signs of breast cancer. This screening is test called a mammogram. This is offered to women over the age of 50 up to their 71st birthday.
  • Bowel cancer screening – this is done at home, and you use a self-testing kit to send your poo to a hospital to check to see if there’s blood in your poo that you can’t see. This screening is offered to people aged 60 to 74 in England every two years.

Attending screening can help to diagnose cancer earlier so that you can get the treatment you need.

What percentage of people don’t go to the doctor?

Feeling embarrassed or nervous about going to the doctor is common, and around a quarter of people may delay going to the doctor. Lots of people are hesitant to visit the doctor and instead look up symptoms on the internet and may self-diagnose themselves. But, only a doctor has the training and expertise to give you a medical diagnosis.

It’s also best to go to the doctor as soon as possible so that any conditions can be detected early. And, if a doctor finds nothing serious, this can put your mind at ease.

How do I stop being embarrassed to go to the doctor?

Here are some tips that might help you to feel less embarrassed about speaking to a doctor.

Tell your doctor you’re embarrassed

If you let your doctor know that you’re embarrassed, they won’t judge you, and will also make extra effort to make sure you feel comfortable.

Write your symptoms down

You can write down what problem you have with your health and hand it to your doctor. That way they can help with whatever is going on if you feel uncomfortable telling them directly.

Everything is confidential

Remember that anything you talk about with your doctor is not shared with anyone, including your family, friends or other patients.

Ask for a specific doctor

You may find it helpful to ask for a specific doctor, for example someone you're familiar with in your practice. Or you might want to ask for a male or female doctor.

Bring someone with you

You may want to bring someone with you to your appointment for support, such as a friend or family member that you trust.

Don’t be alarmed about questions from your doctor

When you talk to a doctor, they may ask you certain questions around your symptoms. But don’t be alarmed, this is purely so they can help you get the best outcome for your enquiry. And feel free to ask why a doctor is asking a certain question, they will be happy to explain to you.

Use your own words

Feel free to use language that you are comfortable with. Doctors don't expect you to know the medical words for things, or a name for your diagnosis. That's their job to find that out for you.

If there’s anything about your health that’s worrying you, the best thing to do is make an appointment with your GP.

Do you know how healthy you truly are? Bupa health assessments give you a clear overview of your health and a view of any future health risks. You'll receive a personal lifestyle action plan with health goals to reach for a happier, healthier you.

A photo of Naveen Puri
Dr Naveen Puri
Medical Director, Bupa UK Insurance



Rasheda Begum, Health Content Editor at Bupa UK

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