Are You a Chronic “Doctor-Avoider”?

Published on Nov 22, 2017
Medically reviewed by Freda Lewis-Hall, MD, DFAPA

How often do we act at odds with our own best interests, usually out of fear of the unknown? So it is with making regular visits to the doctor, a topic we discussed on The Dr. Phil Show. There are lots of reasons why people keep postponing medical appointments, sometimes never going at all, even when their bodies are frantically signaling for help. Fear and anxiety, though, seem to top the list. We’re afraid of what the doctor might find, or say. We’re afraid about what the numbers might tell us about our cholesterol, our blood sugar, or our body-mass index. We tense up just thinking about the blood draw, the breathing tests, the mammogram, or the prostate exam. We even fear that our medical professional will scold us—we haven’t lost that last ten pounds, stopped smoking, joined a gym or changed our sleeping habits.

Today, new factors may contribute to or even compound the fear and anxiety some people face in considering booking – and keeping – that next medical appointment. Medical information gleaned from the internet can confuse or overwhelm people—leading to inertia, indecision, or no action at all. In a mobile society, many people don’t have a medical professional they see regularly.  In these hard times, money for healthcare might be tight. And with busy lives and not much free time, people may see a medical visit as a scheduling nightmare. How often do you see it—parents who dutifully take their children and their elders to the doctor, but can’t find the time to go themselves? 

We know full well that avoiding our medical professionals isn’t going to make things better. In fact, we run much higher risks when we forgo early detection of easily treatable conditions, such as hypertension or high cholesterol.

So, if you’ve been putting off a medical appointment, it’s time to take charge and stop letting your anxiety, your denial, or your busy schedule, control you. Not easy, but remember, your health has to come first. If you are a parent, a grandparent, a carer, a breadwinner, a homemaker, a family member, you know that others are depending on you to stay healthy. If you are a “doctor-avoider,” make it a priority to get a physical checkup soon. If you need to, have a friend or relative go with you. Make sure to write down all your symptoms and questions. Be honest with your medical professionals about your feelings. Most of all, let the past be the past. The important thing is taking action—today.

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After reading this article, how likely are you to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss medical symptoms you may be having?

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