Preparing for your appointmentBy Mayo Clinic staff
You're likely to start by seeing your primary care doctor. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred directly to a health provider who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions (psychologist or psychiatrist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and know what to expect from your health provider.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you've had, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all of the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your health provider.
Your time with your health provider is limited, so preparing a list of questions ahead of time will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For problems related to depression, some basic questions to ask your health provider include:
- Is depression the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- Other than the most likely cause, what are other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
- What kinds of tests will I need?
- What treatment is likely to work best for me?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a psychiatrist or other mental health provider?
- Are there any possible side effects or other issues I should be aware of with the medications you're recommending?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your health provider, don't hesitate to ask any additional questions that may occur to you during your appointment.
What to expect from your health provider
Your health provider is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your health provider may ask:
- When did you or your loved ones first notice your symptoms of depression?
- How long have you felt depressed? Do you generally always feel down, or does your mood fluctuate?
- Does your mood ever swing from feeling down to feeling euphoric and full of energy?
- Do you ever have suicidal thoughts when you're feeling down?
- How severe are your symptoms? Do they interfere with your daily life or relationships?
- Do you have any biological relatives with depression or another mood disorder?
- What other mental or physical health conditions do you have?
- Do you drink alcohol or use illegal drugs?
- How much do you sleep at night? Does it change over time?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
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