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How do I prepare for an appointment to discuss my mental health?

Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

To prepare for an appointment to discuss my mental health:

  • Write down when you started noticing changes in your mental health and thoughts or behavior patterns and what they are.
  • Be prepared to discuss how your symptoms are affecting your daily life.
  • Bring along a list of any medications you take and be open about your use of alcohol or drugs.
  • You may want to ask someone you trust to come to the appointment with you.
Sudeepta Varma, MD
Psychiatry
1)      In the day of managed care, most primary care doctors have only a few minutes to do a full medical history and physical exam on the patient. They are focused on the reason you are there- which may be for a cough, flu, diabetes, cholesterol or heart problem. The mental health issues are unfortunately often discussed only incidentally. Prepare the list of mental health symptoms you have-this will save a lot of time and help your doctor determine the best course of action. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a referral for a psychiatrist (for consultation and possibly treatment for medication management).  For example-signs of depression include: low mood, low energy, avoiding people, low motivation, loss of pleasure in things you used to enjoy. Increased alcohol consumption or binge eating may also be a sign of an underlying depression or anxiety problem. Signs of depression, in severe cases can include feelings of worthlessness- even suicide. However, some times, problems are not so clear cut- for example- anxiety symptoms- could be correlated to depression or could be a sign of a separate anxiety disorder (social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder). Most primary care doctors are able to detect a basic depressive episode and can recommend/prescribe antidepressant treatment. However, if you are not getting better in 6 to 8 weeks (and the dose has been maximized appropriately-something not often done by many well-intentioned Primary docs)- you may consider seeing a psychiatrist. The advantage is that you will be properly diagnosed if there are additional psychological conditions and the treatment can be optimized in a shorter period of time.

To prepare for an appointment with your doctor or a therapist, write down when you noticed you started noticing changes in your mental health and thought or behavior patterns and what they are. Be prepared to discuss how your symptoms are affecting your daily life. Bring along a list of any medications you take and be open about your use of alcohol or drugs. You may want to ask someone you trust to come to the appointment with you.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.