Friday, December 2, 2011

Communication at the Doctor's Office

       One place where communication can be difficult for those with ASD is at the Doctor's office. Even outside the Doctor's office trying to explain pain, discomfort, or emotions can be a challenge. The same goes for visits to counselors and mental health professionals. Many times people with Aspergers are forced to develop rich vocabularies at an early age to compensate for communication difficulties. This leads people to think "Oh he/she seems to communicate just fine." Not so fast...
       For one thing, many people are not literal in expressing feelings. A small child with a migraine may not have "migraine" in their vocabulary yet and complain of a "headache and a tummy ache". An adult may ask where exactly does it hurt and they won't know what to say, but they're not lying. There are different types of migraines, but many times they are called headaches but aren't necessarily a pain in the head, just a weird feeling in the head. It tends to involve nausea, which affects the stomach but doesn't necessarily involve a pain in a localized spot.
       Depression is another feeling that tends to be elusive to describe. While unexplained sadness is a common symptom, many other signs are less obvious and are better described with less formal language such as "I feel blah". Or sometimes the signs are paradoxical; "I feel tired, but I can't sleep". Anxiety can also take on forms more elusive to describe than merely feeling nervous or worried.
       Generally we all need to count on a professional to listen to us but at the same time to use their own intuition. What makes things worse is due to the fast pace of the modern world and insurance constraints, the time we get with our providers seems to get less and less so it is important for people to be able to communicate their feelings in a way others can understand in a short period of time. One problem with having a rich vocabulary and using overly formal language not common to a lay person it that to a professional it can make us come off as Hypochondriacs or like we are spending too much time with our noses in medical books, malingering, looking for sympathy/attention, or trying to impress the Doctor/Therapist... with all the big words we learned on WebMD. These misunderstandings can lead not only to a faulty diagnosis, but can lead to veiled sarcasm, rolled eyes, or people looking at their watches too frequently. After all today's Doctors are frequently stressed, in a hurry, and have already "seen everything"- so they think.

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