Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease for which early treatment is vital to limit long-term joint damage. However, individuals often delay seeking medical help at the onset of RA symptoms. The early interpretation of symptoms and the process of making sense of symptoms impacts on both help-seeking decision-making and self-management. Furthermore, the general public's perceptions and knowledge of RA may also affect the way that symptoms are interpreted. Examining the psychology behind early-symptom interpretation, the barriers to help-seeking behavior and investigating the public's understanding of RA, can help us understand how decisions are made and guide us in developing interventions that encourage individuals to seek help promptly at the onset of RA.