Coping Strategies for Medical Test Anxiety
Last updated: April 2023
I always get anxious when it comes to medical issues, but even more so when looking into a new diagnosis and the medical tests that usually come with it. Back when I was getting my chronic hives diagnosed my doctor was concerned about a specific condition called vascular dermatitis. They described vascular dermatitis as a type of chronic hives that can cause more systemic issues and needs more careful follow-up.
My doctor was looking into that diagnosis because I had been getting hives that started like mosquito bites that would eventually turn into large welts that lasted days to weeks. These spots itched like nothing else and felt like a sunburn. When these spots finally did clear up, they would leave behind a kind of bruise where the welt had been.
Vascular dermatitis diagnosis
In order to get a diagnosis of vascular dermatitis, the doctor needs to get a biopsy. But the catch is, these spots have to be biopsied within the first two days of them appearing. I somehow lucked out and was able to get in for a biopsy with one of my doctor’s colleagues when the next spot appeared.
I was super nervous about getting the biopsy. I know it was necessary as part of the diagnosis process, but that certainly didn’t make it any more appealing. I decided to employ some coping strategies that I’ve learned along the way, and I thought I would share some of those with you.
Coping with medical test anxiety
Call a friend
I called a friend on the way to the clinic, specifically a friend who also has chronic illness. People who also have chronic health conditions understand the anxiety that comes with medical procedures more than anyone else. My friend was able to encourage me and distracted me before the procedure. And it was just nice to have someone to talk to.
When I finally got to the clinic and back into the procedure room I made sure to ask the doctor any and all questions I had. I asked about everything from the biopsy itself, to the potential results, and how long it make take to get the test back. I’ve always said that knowledge is power, and it’s just as true in a situation like this. The more I know about something, the more I feel in control and am better able to moderate my emotions.
I have worked with my counselor and some other providers on different practices, like meditation and breathing regulation to help when I get stressed out. During the procedure, I practiced something called box breathing. You may have also heard it called square breathing. Inhale for five seconds, hold that breath for five seconds, exhale for five seconds, hold the exhale for five seconds, inhale for five seconds, etc. The box breathing kept me focused on something I was in complete control over.
Before I knew it, the procedure was over, the biopsy had been taken, and I had a bandage on my arm. Honestly, I had worked it up in my mind and it ended up not being so bad. Thankfully the biopsy came back negative, leading to the conclusion that my hives are just hives and not anything more significant.
How do you cope with tests or procedures related to your diagnoses? What are some of your coping strategies? Make sure to let us know in the comments!
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