Waiting for the weekend to come or a long-desired vacation can bring excitement, but what happens when you’re waiting for something nerve-racking, like medical test results and a potential diagnosis?
Experts explore the connection between fearing the unknown (which can happen when you’re waiting for medical test results), and provide tips for how you can keep positive in a potentially negative situation.
Nerina Garcia-Arcement, a licensed clinical psychologist and a clinical assistant professor at the NYU School of Medicine, said in an email that fearing the unknown is something we all experience at some point in life.
“Fear of the unknown (especially when [the] outcome can be negative) is a normal human reaction,” Garcia-Arcement said. “That is why many avoid going to the doctor to begin with. They fear hearing that they are ill or whatever they imagine.”
Besides the common fear and anxiety that can be associated with waiting for medical test results, there are other emotions and thoughts that people can experience.
“Other common emotions are numbness ... worry, sadness and guilt (that they didn't go sooner and now might be ill) and concern about how this might impact their lives, plans and families,” Garcia-Arcement said.
So now that you’re waiting for medical test results, how can you cope with some of these negative emotions you may be experiencing?
“[The] best way is to acknowledge what they are feeling, normalize it/know that it is normal to feel that way, and then use healthy coping strategies to deal with what they are feeling,” Garcia-Arcement said. “If they are anxious and worried, do breathing exercises, distract themselves with activities and people they enjoy, do visualization exercises or any other type of self-care activity that will help them ‘get through’ until they receive their diagnosis.”
If you’re almost positive that the medical test results you’re waiting for will lead to a diagnosis of some kind, there are some ways you can prepare yourself for this potentially devastating situation.
“I have my patients imagine worst case [scenarios],” Garcia-Arcement said.