You’re feeling under the weather. Maybe you’ve had a pain that’s been bothering you for weeks, but not enough to call the doctor’s office. Or you know you’re due a checkup, but your calendar is just too cramped. Perhaps you’ve been Googling your symptoms, and now you’re too worried to book an appointment and have your worst nightmares confirmed. Whatever the reason, it’s high time you stopped avoiding the doctors and took charge of your health.
Putting off seeing a medical expert can mean that your symptoms can get worse and worse. This could lead to you needing more treatment and more appointments in the future, so you’re not saving yourself any time or expense by delaying. Whatsmore, if it’s something serious, it might need to be caught before it gets worse. A timely diagnosis can even save your life.
If you’ve been delaying a visit to the doctor, you’re not alone. 80% of Americans delay getting medical care, with this figure rising to nine out of ten for millennials.
So why do we delay medical care – and what can we do to break this habit?
Too busy to schedule
One major reason is lack of time in our busy schedules. Many doctor’s offices are only open during standard business hours, which means taking time off work for an appointment. For many people, this is inconvenient, and for others, it’s almost impossible! Nobody wants to risk taking time off work for something that could end up being nothing. Even when we do book a checkup, work can get in the way. Almost half of employed Americans have had to cancel a visit to the doctors due to work. For parents, it can be even more of a challenge to fit in an appointment due to hectic schedules and the tendency to prioritize the needs of their kids.
The thing is, it is possible to find the time to get help. It’s often about a change in priorities. Most people find the time to do groceries, go to the gym or visit friends, no matter how packed their schedule is because they make a point of scheduling these things in the first place. Make it a priority to schedule your preventative care appointments. It might feel like sacrificing time, but if there’s something actually wrong, you’ll be glad you made time to go. If you really can’t find time to get to the doctor’s office you can often get help and prescriptions online, so this might be worth looking in to.
What if you’re putting off care because you haven’t got a doctor? It’s worth registering with a medical practitoner as soon as you can since you’ll never know when you might need them. If you’re not sure about who to go with, do your research. Ask friends and colleagues in your local area for good recommendations. You can always go and visit the office, check their website or call up to ask any questions you might have.
The cost can be a barrier too. Even with insurance, sometimes medical bills can get steep. Money is tight for a lot of people, so it’s no surprise that cost is a factor here. But seeing a doctor sooner rather than later could actually save long-winded treatment and sky-high bills in the future, as you might be able to catch a problem before it gets worse. Prevention is your best bet, closely followed by early treatment. It’s not a good idea to let something that was treatable end up as a trip to the emergency room further down the line. Leaving things to get worse is a false economy and could risk your health in the long term.
Others might put off getting an appointment because nowadays it seems easy enough to diagnose yourself. There’s Google, Youtube and a whole host of bloggers who can tell you what symptoms might mean and what remedies to use. It’s tempting to fall into this trap, but it’s a worrying rabbit hole to go down. These resources are likely to either scaremonger or provide false or fabricated information. Sometimes research online can be a useful guideline and help you to know what kinds of questions to ask a doctor. But ultimately, the only person who can diagnose your symptoms or suggest a treatment is a medically trained professional. So rather than wasting time on forums, just speak to a doctor for a quick assessment. Depending on your symptoms, you might even be able to do a phone consultation.
Worries about medical treatment
There’s another, less discussed reason that people shy away from medical help. Some people put off medical treatment because they are worried that it might lead to surgery, wrong diagnoses, medication errors or other scary outcomes. In fact, 3% of Americans actually have a phobia of visiting the doctor. But doctors and surgeons are medical professionals with years and years of training and experience to their name. It’s highly unlikely that anything would go wrong. In fact, the whole point of visiting a doctor is to prevent something going wrong with your health.
But if the fear of a medical mistake is what puts you off a visit to the doctor, read about medical malpractice. It’s unlikely that something will go wrong, but knowing that you can get expert support if malpractice does occur might be enough to calm your nerves. It’s worth knowing what your rights are and what you can expect from medical care, as this can help you to feel more self-assured during your medical visit.
The truth is, if something about your health is worrying you, or you haven’t been to see a doctor in a long time, it’s absolutely worth going. Nothing could be more important than your health. Your symptoms may turn out to not need treatment, but you’ll never know that it’s nothing without professional guidance. Don’t leave it all up to Dr Google.