What to Do When You Can't Get to a Doctor's Appointment

August 25, 2021 Natasha Tracy

Sometimes, you can't get to a doctor's appointment because you're just too sick. You might have too much anxiety to leave the house. You might be too depressed to get out of bed. You might be incapacitated by mental illness to the point where you can't get to a doctor's appointment when you need it the absolute most. This is a real barrier to mental health care that some people face. Read on for tips on what to do next.

How Can Mental Illness Keep You from Getting to a Doctor's Appointment?

Some people can't understand how bipolar disorder or another mental illness could keep you from getting to a doctor's appointment. If you think a mental illness is all "in the person's head," then you might not understand why it would affect a person's functioning to such a large degree. But this indicates a misunderstanding of what mental illness is. Yes, it's called a "mental" illness, but that just indicates that's where the illness starts, not where it ends. In the case of serious mental illness, it can leak into every facet of life.

For example, while people may think of depression as being sad and crying, many people don't think of insomnia, lack of appetite, slowed movements and thoughts, and fatigue as depression symptoms even though they are part of the diagnostic criteria of major depressive disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It isn't surprising that if you're not sleeping, not eating, not even moving, you'd have trouble transporting yourself anywhere.

But that's just the obvious issue. Many other issues might stand in the way of getting to a doctor's appointment too. For example, if a person doesn't feel worthy of help, they may not go. If a person is planning their death, they may not go. If a person is suffering from extreme indecisiveness, they may not go. The list goes on and on, and that's just for depression. States like anxiety, mania, hypomania, and others have their own lists.

So, in short, if you feel like you can't get to your doctor's appointment because of your mental illness, you're not alone.

6 Tips for When You Can't Get to a Doctor's Appointment

But the thing is, no matter why you can't get to a doctor's appointment, you need to go. It's now that you need it more than ever.

Try these strategies:

  1. Ask for a virtual appointment. If you feel like you can't get to a doctor's office for any reason, ask for an online appointment or a phone appointment. This is a reasonable accommodation to ask for from your doctor. Simply ask the office for this type of appointment. Since COVID, they are available pretty much universally.
  2. Talk to a therapist about it. If you can make it to a therapy appointment either online, by phone, or in person, then talk to your therapist about what's standing in your way. They may be able to help you clear a mental roadblock or help you create a plan to clear a physical one. (Calling a helpline may also be an option if you don't have a therapist.)
  3. Make a plan. Sometimes the idea of managing all the moving parts that need to align to get you to a doctor's appointment can seem overwhelming, so make a plan ahead of time. List the dates/times when things need to happen. List your barriers and ways you can address each one. Get others to help you with your plan if you need to.
  4. Ask for help. Getting to a doctor's appointment when you think you can't, can sometimes be as simple as asking someone else to drive you. If a loved one arrives at your house at 3:00 p.m. on a Thursday and expects you to get into the car (and supports you in doing so), that can be enough to move your body forward.
  5. Practice ahead of time. If anxiety has you immobilized, try running your plan before the day of your appointment with a friend. If you need to take the bus, take the route you need to take. If you drive, then drive the same roads. Convince yourself that you can do it ahead of time and know that while it might be harder on the day, you can do it.
  6. Prioritize the appointment. Make sure you do everything required to get you to a doctor's appointment before doing anything else. Your health is the priority, not a clean house,

Most of all, understand that it's extremely important that you attend all healthcare appointments in whatever way you can. The only way you can get better -- and make leaving the house for an appointment easier -- is by talking to your doctor about your problems and addressing them in treatment. If you don't change anything, then nothing will ever change. If you don't ask for help, you can't possibly get it.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, August 25). What to Do When You Can't Get to a Doctor's Appointment, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Cathy cordell
July, 4 2023 at 5:33 pm

What do you do if you don't want to get your mental health appointmen

August, 27 2022 at 12:07 pm

This article about dr appointments was very good and helpful.

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