Delaying medical care for fear of bad news

This is something I think about quite a lot. I’ve thought about this issue for many years, truth be told.

It could be called: Delaying medical care because of fear.

Or, it could be described as: Avoiding doctor’s analysis because you’re scared of hearing bad health news.

It’s sort of like the classic situation of someone who finds a lump somewhere but isn’t going to get an exam for fear that it’s cancerous.

Or, some years back there used to be a lot of talk about AIDS. You don’t hear much talk about AIDS anymore. But, it used to be a big topic. I guess there’s something of a treatment now that I understand is pretty effective?

But, anyway…it used to be that some people would get an AIDS test. And, a lot of people wouldn’t get the AIDS test because they were scared that it would tell they they had AIDS.

Google tells me that fear of getting tested for stds is a popular search. This is the same conceptually as the other examples.

I see this page: Anyone else scared to go to the doctor out of fear of bad news?

I can relate to that. And, I know that I’m not alone. As discussed above, people are scared of getting bad news. That seems very human and understandable to me.

But, I also know that this is a really immature and stupid approach. And, it makes me wonder how I’m this age and still so stupid and immature.

I know very well that avoiding the doctor IS NOT going to solve anything. I KNOW THAT! In the case of things like cancer, it’s said that early detection can go a long way.

Fear Of The Dentist

For many years, I was afraid to go to the dentist. Really. And, God knows that avoidance wasn’t the answer. To be completely fair, I couldn’t really afford much treatment, but the real problem is I just was scared to go. It’s hard to admit these things. But, I think it’s healthy to admit them.

I ended up going to the dentist eventually. And, I had really bad gum disease. Really bad. And, you know…that’s the thing I was afraid of hearing! But, then it got treated. And, I’m okay now. There’s a lesson in there!

So, I decided to really think about and research this issue. Here are my conclusions.

8 Reasons Why People Delay Medical Care

Delaying medical care due to fear of receiving bad news is a psychological phenomenon that highlights the intricate relationship between health, emotions, and human behavior. While seeking medical attention promptly is often crucial for early detection and effective treatment, various psychological factors can lead individuals to postpone seeking care, even when they suspect a health issue.

1. Fear of the Unknown: One of the primary reasons for avoiding medical care is the fear of the unknown. Many people prefer not to confront potential health problems because they are afraid of the implications and potential outcomes. The uncertainty surrounding a diagnosis can trigger anxiety and distress, leading individuals to rationalize that avoiding medical care might shield them from unpleasant news.

2. Coping Mechanisms: Delaying medical care can also be a form of coping. Ignoring symptoms or avoiding medical attention can serve as a psychological defense mechanism to temporarily suppress fear or anxiety about potential health problems. People might believe that by delaying the inevitable, they can maintain a sense of normalcy and control in their lives.

3. Denial: Denial plays a significant role in this behavior. People might convince themselves that their symptoms are minor or that they are overreacting. Denial allows them to maintain a façade of well-being while suppressing any thoughts about the possibility of a serious health issue.

4. Psychological Barriers: Negative emotions associated with illness, such as shame, embarrassment, or guilt, can act as psychological barriers. Individuals might feel ashamed of needing medical attention or embarrassed to discuss certain symptoms with healthcare professionals. These feelings can deter them from seeking help until the situation becomes too severe to ignore.

5. Cognitive Dissonance: Cognitive dissonance, the discomfort arising from holding conflicting beliefs, can lead individuals to rationalize delaying care. They might downplay the seriousness of their symptoms to align with their belief in their overall good health, ignoring contradictory evidence.

6. Previous Experiences: Negative experiences with medical care, such as misdiagnoses or perceived lack of empathy from healthcare providers, can contribute to the fear of bad news. These experiences might erode trust in the medical system and increase reluctance to seek help.

7. Temporal Discounting: Humans tend to prioritize immediate rewards over long-term benefits. The fear of receiving bad news and the potential for treatment-related disruptions can lead individuals to prioritize short-term emotional comfort over the long-term benefits of early intervention.

8. Procrastination Tendencies: For some individuals, a tendency to procrastinate can extend to seeking medical care. Procrastination might offer temporary relief from the anxiety associated with addressing health concerns.

In addressing this phenomenon, healthcare professionals can play a pivotal role. By fostering open and empathetic communication, providing education about the importance of early detection, and creating a supportive environment, healthcare providers can help individuals overcome their fears and misconceptions about seeking medical care. Additionally, public health campaigns that focus on promoting a proactive approach to health, along with raising awareness about the benefits of early intervention, can help dispel the stigma and fear surrounding bad news.


In conclusion, the decision to delay medical care due to fear of bad news is a complex interplay of psychological factors. Recognizing and understanding these factors is essential for healthcare professionals, individuals, and society as a whole to promote timely medical attention and overall well-being.