What To Do If You're Going To The Doctor For The First Time In Years

Whether it's due to gaps in your insurance, an inability to pay, or just life getting in the way, sometimes we don't keep up with our regular doctor appointments. If you haven't been to the doctor in a while, you're not alone. While there are many reasons why people avoid medical care, a 2020 survey found that 1 out of every 3 people in the United States reported avoiding going to the doctor due to cost (via Bankrate).

Beyond an inability to pay for services, data published in a 2018 edition of the Journal of General Internal Medicine pointed to other reasons why people avoid medical care such as feeling that it isn't necessary, not being able to find a convenient time to go to an appointment, fear and embarrassment, and a general sense of distrust in their provider.

It can feel difficult to head back to the doctor after a long time away. You may be concerned about being judged, shamed, or may have anxiety about what to expect and how to play catch up after years of avoiding your checkups. Whatever your personal reasons for not going to the doctor may be, once you've made the decision to go back, there are a few things you should keep in mind to help create a seamless transition.

The best way to handle a long-overdue doctor appointment

When you make the decision to head back to the doctor after a long time away, the first thing to do is to make an appointment. According to Livestrong, even if you are feeling guilty about neglecting your medical appointments, don't feel like you have to explain yourself to the person taking your call. You have nothing to feel ashamed about. If you are feeling anxious about going to the doctor and feel comfortable telling the receptionist so, you can feel free to mention it. They may inform your doctor and may help you find a time to come in when it's not too crowded.

Doing a bit of homework before your appointment may also help to ease any anxiety and help you feel prepared, per Livestrong. Making a couple of notes about questions and concerns to bring up during your appointment will help you steer the conversation in a way that helps you maximize your time with your provider. You may also want to bring a book or some headphones so that you can keep your mind off of your anxiety. Breathing exercises and fidget toys may also be helpful.

Finally, if for some reason you receive questions or judgment from anyone about not having been to the doctor in a long time, do your best to disengage from the conversation and remember that you don't have to be apologetic or explain yourself to anyone, adds Livestrong.