Questions for Your Psychiatrist, Doctor or Therapist

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When discussing your mental health concerns, psychiatric diagnosis, or medication treatment, here are questions to ask your doctor or therapist.

When discussing your mental health concerns, psychiatric diagnosis, or medication treatment, here are questions to ask your doctor or therapist.If you are seeing your doctor about a mental health condition, you may feel overwhelmed and even embarrassed. Don't be. Mental disorders are common and widespread. The National Mental Health Association estimates that 54 million Americans suffer from some form of mental disorder in any given year.

Symptoms of a mental health problem may include changes in mood, personality, behaviors, personal habits and/or social withdrawal. Some of the most common mental health disorders are depression, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive disorder), dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.

Mental illnesses may be caused by a reaction to trauma, environmental stresses, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances or a combination of these. With proper care and treatment many people learn to cope or recover from a mental illness or emotional disorder. To increase the chance that treatment works, patients and their families should actively participate in their care and treatment. This means understanding your condition, taking an active role in your care and recovery, and asking questions. Remember, there is no such thing as a "dumb" question when it comes to your health.

The answer to some of your questions may help you and your doctor choose the treatment that is best for you. Treatment for mental health problems may include counseling (psychotherapy) and/or medication. Mental health disorders respond well to treatment. Talk to your doctor, and learn as much as you can about your condition and its treatments.

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Take this list of questions with you the next time you go to see your doctor, and write down the answers for future reference.

Questions About Your Mental Health Diagnosis

  • What is my diagnosis? Can you explain it in simple language that I can understand?
  • What are the possible causes of my condition?
  • What is the prescribed treatment? What are the benefits and risks?
  • Is this the most successful treatment available? Are there other treatments available?
  • How soon should treatment start? How long will it last?
  • What are my options if this treatment fails?
  • Do I need a follow-up visit?

Before you get a prescription

Make sure your doctor knows:

  • Your past medical history.
  • Other medications being taken.
  • Anticipated life changes such as planning to have a baby.
  • Past experience with medication or food side effects.
  • If you have diabetes, kidney, liver or heart disease.
  • If you are on a special diet or taking any supplements.
  • If you smoke or drink alcohol.

Mental Health Medication Questions

There are basic categories for mental health medications based on the symptoms for which they are primarily used; antipsychotic, antimanic, antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. Find out what kind of medication your doctor is recommending and what to expect. Just in case your doctor doesn't have much time, choose the five most important questions to ask first.

  • What is the name of the medication, and what is it supposed to do?
  • What are the chances of getting better with this treatment?
  • How will I know if the medicine is working or not working?
  • How and when do I take it, and when do I stop taking it?
  • How long will I have to take the medicine?
  • Can I take this medication if I am planning on having a baby soon?
  • What foods, drinks, other medications or activities should I avoid while taking this medicine?
  • Is there any written information available about the medication?
  • What are the side effects, and what should I do if they occur?
  • Will side effects change as I continue to take the medication?
  • Will this medication affect my sleep, ability to drive or operate equipment, sex life, appetite, etc.?
  • How will the medication interact with other medication I am already taking?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose? Can I have beer, wine or other alcoholic drinks?

continue: Sharing Your Treatment Progress with Your Doctor