It seems like every time you turn around, someone is advising you to, “Ask your doctor.” Miss a day of work? Better go see a doctor to find out what’s wrong. Fever? Ask your doctor. Tired? Ask your doctor; it might be depression. Trouble managing your child’s behavior? Ask your doctor if your child may have ADHD or Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
Many doctors are wise, resourceful, and helpful, but I don’t think we have enough doctors to answer all of these questions. Doctors’ schedules are overbooked and wait times are unreasonable. There are plenty of situations when you shouldn’t (at least not as the first option) consult a doctor.
Don’t go see your doctor when you have a simple, mild virus.
Unless you’re in frail health, you don’t really need to go to the doctor for a basic cold, or often even for the flu. Most people need to stay in bed, stay hydrated, and wait it out. If your symptoms are severe and you can’t keep fluids down, that’s when it’s time to call your doctor for an appointment.
Don’t make an appointment with your doctor for tiredness, low energy, or fatigue when you know the reason is your recent lifestyle.
If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends, up late, up early, chugging too much caffeine and overdoing the alcohol, you don’t need your doctor to tell you why you’re feeling run down. Take a self-care day and get some rest. Slow down. Cut out non-essential commitments, like socializing with co-workers, and take a nap midday. Turn in early. Sleep in late. Ask your spouse to get the kids ready so you can get some rest. Or cut out TV for a couple of weeks and get in bed earlier. Cut back on caffeine and alcohol. Eat healthy foods. If rest and self-care don’t make you feel better, then it’s time to assess things with the help of your doctor.
Don’t call your doctor when your family member (even when he or she has mental illness) gets angry with you for something reasonable.
When family members have depression or bipolar disorders, it can be scary to see them upset, but sometimes their behavior is normal for the situation. If you’ve had an argument with your family member, even if he or she has a mental illness, first ask yourself whether the argument was the kind of interaction that happens when most people get upset. Most of us get a little unreasonable when our feelings are hurt or when we feel misunderstood. We may yell, or say something hurtful, but arguments usually subside and apologies are made. The exception, or course, is when you have a safety concern. If you think your angry family member won’t be safe, call someone right away.
Don’t call a doctor for advice about disobedient children.
Most doctors are experts in the prescribing of medication. If you’re just beginning to tackle a child behavior problem, consider a counselor or a play therapist first. Your pediatrician has short appointments, and even if s/he has great advice to offer, there probably won’t be enough time to catch it all. Increasingly, pediatrics offices are employing counseling professionals in their clinics to address behavior. If your clinic has a counselor, ask to speak to that person first. If not, find a professional in your community who works with kids and parents to address behavior. A good counselor will tell you if your child needs a medical assessment.
Don’t ask a doctor to assess your relationship problem.
Like child behavior problems, adult relationship problems are best addressed first in counseling. Counseling appointments are longer and you'll be able to meet with your counselor more often. If one or the other partner needs a medical referral, a good counselor will let you know.