How to Handle Your First Psychiatric Appointment
Recently, someone wrote me and asked how to best handle a first psychiatric appointment. This is a good question because, essentially, people are walking into the vast unknown. If you’ve never seen a psychiatrist before, how could you possibly know what to expect? And, the kicker of that is, the doctor will be asking you why you’re there. So you’re supposed to know what to say when he says that. So how do you handle your first psychiatric appointment?
Write Down What Concerns You Before Your Psychiatric Appointment
Many people get in front of a psychiatrist a freeze, completely forgetting all the issues that brought them there in the first place. This is extremely common. So, before you head off for your first psychiatric appointment write down all your concerns. Everything that has been odd and everything that you think might be odd should go down on the list, with examples.
For example, “I find I obsessively count things. I can’t leave a room without counting all of the ceiling tiles.”
It doesn’t matter what your concerns are, believe me, the psychiatrist has heard them all before.
Bring a Loved One to Your First Psychiatric Appointment
It can be really difficult to sit in front of a stranger and pour out your heart and admit to things you’d likely prefer to forget. But you have to, so bring a loved one to your first psychiatric appointment to make it easier. This person will be on your side and be able to fill in any blanks you might forget. Plus, this person can offer a perspective on what symptoms he or she has personally seen and that can be very helpful for a doctor. (Your loved one can also write down concerns before the appointment too. They may freeze under the stress of being there as well.)
Be Open and Honest In All Psychiatric Appointments
Honestly, it’s natural to want to hide stuff, even from a psychiatrist, but he can’t help you if you don’t give him the full picture so it’s critical to be honest with your psychiatrist. If you’re experiencing sexual dysfunction – say so. If you’re raging in out of character ways – say so. If you just bought five, $5,000 handbags that you can’t afford – say so. All of this is important stuff even if you’d prefer it not be.
Also try to answer the psychiatrist’s questions with as much honesty as possible. Don’t try to shape your answers into a diagnosis, just be honest. Really, you’ll be a more accurate diagnosis that way. You don’t’ know what is important so don’t try to do your psychiatrist’s job for him.
Write Down Everything the Doctor Says in Your First Psychiatric Appointment
Chances are there will be a lot of information flying your way in your first psychiatric appointment so write it down for reference later. This can be the job of your loved one.
Ask Questions at Your First Psychiatric Appointment
What matters in any psychiatric appointment is that you understand what is going on and you can’t do that without questions. No questions is a dumb question. Trust me. I’ve heard them all and I’ve probably asked them all and they’re all important. Don’t leave the room without an understanding of what is going on and what is happening next. Again, your loved one may be able to do some of this for you if you’re feeling overwhelmed, which would be natural. Likely you won’t have a complete understanding of your illness at your first appointment but your doctor may be able to recommend resources (like HealthyPlace) where you can learn more.
Your First Psychiatrist Appointment Should End with a Plan
You may or may not leave your first psychiatric appointment with a prescription, but you should leave with a plan for next steps. Will you be seeing someone else? Do you need any tests run? When can a diagnosis be made if not now? That sort of thing.
You Should Understand Any Prescriptions from Your First Psychiatric Appointment
If you do get a prescription, make sure you understand what it is, what it’s for and what the common side effects are. You should also know if there are any special dosing instruction (like, take with food (and how much food)) and if there are any interactions to worry about.
Again, you may want to write down what you want to know about a prescription before you get there so you know that when you walk out, you have all the information you need.
Your First Psychiatric Appointment Is Worth It
I think, in short, it is scary meeting a stranger that has so much power to help you, or not, but it’s worth it because, honestly, most doctors just want to see you get better. Yes, there are bad apples and if you get one, you’ll have to see about changing doctors, but most really do want to help. So try to go in with a positive attitude, with the backup of a loved one and start getting the help you need to get better.
Tracy, N. (2015, July 21). How to Handle Your First Psychiatric Appointment, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2015/07/how-to-handle-your-first-psychiatric-appointment
Author: Natasha Tracy
I understand the desire to want to keep this from everyone but I don't recommend this. This is a hard road and it's even harder if you walk it alone. Certainly, you don't have to tell anyone, but if you trust at least one person, that support can be invaluable.
- Natasha Tracy
I'm so happy I found this site to read about everyone's advice and experiences with their first visit cause I'm scared as hell right now. I've been living like this for 15-20 years and finally getting up the courage to get the help I'm really needing. I've never been diagnosed but I've all the symptoms as being bipolar. My head races so much that I can't think straight then get so much anxiety because of it and can't get it too stop and much less I worry about people hurting me all day and night. It's crazy and maybe I'm crazy but it's time. Can anyone give me some helpful advice to keep calm or to try and help me before my first visit. I had to leave my last job because it became too much to handle and always thought my workers under me were going to hurt me in some kind of way and I can't live like this anymore
Thanks for any help and great website and pray you all will keep updating it to help myself and others that may be going through same thing
I'm so happy I found this website that will help me understand my 1st visit to see a psychiatrist. I've never been diagnosed but I'm scared as hell to what I've been going through the last 15-20 years. I've all the symptoms for being bipolar and want to know can any of you give me some helpful advice to keep calm. My head doesn't slow down a bit to even think or sleep and do get sick as well from the anxiety I've. I'm finally getting up the courage to get some much needed help cause I can't live like this anymore. I appreciate any help one can give
Alllllllll summer I was in my head. And now nothing. I don't know where to start. It's too much. I don't even know how to start here.. what if I don't say enough. I hate this..
Here's A Guide I Found On The Net That May Be Helpful With Regards To Psychology And It's Practice, A Special Emphasis On Boundaries
I once read an autobiography, that was too disturbing to finish, by a young girl in my community who had been kidnapped by a neighbour and held in a tiny underground bunker (no light, no toilet, etc) for over a year where he repeatedly sexually assaulted her and nearly starved her to death. He even took part in a public search for her with the police, now how sick is that! Eventually he was caught, charged and died in prison.
When she was eventually rescued by the police her mother took her to a local hospital to see a counsellor that kept insisting she come and sit on his lap! She didn't want to because it made her feel uncomfortable. Her childlike trust had already been broken and her boundaries severely violated by her original abuser. She was not ready and that "counsellor" should have known better than to insist on any type of "closeness". When they left she told her mother she was never going back and she didn't. She had already been traumatized enough!
A doctor's hypocratic oath is said to be "first do no harm"... A true healer will abide by that. A true healer is sensitive to the needs of their client and will act appropriately!
Follow your intuition. If something feels wrong, it probably is.
Thanks again so much for all the comments here! <3
I found it to be comforting to read about your common anxieties regarding your visit. I don't mean that I take comfort in your pain! I have been putting off visiting a psychiatrist for 10 years, and I finally went in today.
I had the same thoughts that both of you do, and Kelli I really felt like k had to vomit, before and after the appointment. It was hours ago, but I still feel strung up with anxiety. I wish I had read this article before my appointment, it would have been so helpful to have things written down considering how I was in a state of terror through the whole appointment. How can one even fail a psych appt, but my mind still insisted that's what would happen.
Instead I received compassion and understanding. When my anxiety and nervous tension wears off (hopefully soon) I think I will feel relief as well as somewhat proud that I FINALLY took the first step.
I wish the best of luck to both of you! When I left I kept thinking "I wish I did this 10 years ago, I've had so much unnecessary suffering!"
I hope everything goes well for both of you.
It has taken me two years to get this far because of my anxiety.... Right now it is very amped up and I will be throwing up by morning. I can't even drive myself to the appointment! I feel like I will 'Fail' the evaluation and make a fool out of myself!!!
Intellectually, HOW can anyone 'mess up' a visit with a psychiatrist?? This is what I battle with daily.....Dread and Fear! Along with heart palps, nausea, shortness of breath, shaking and fatigue.....all the time! I will post the outcome tomorrow.....wish me luck!
I am still trying to come to terms that I have bipolar, let alone bipolar I with psychosis. I feel things touching me that aren't there, I think people follow me when I drive, and sometimes I hear and smell things that are not there. I am always suspicious of everyone and their motives.
And writing this makes me feel like I am a nutcase. Maybe I am. All I know is that I am committed to my mental health and psychiatric care has been my 2nd step. I have just started Lithium and I am in day 2 and although I am still manic, I can already feel that my mind has changed or at least the moods.
I look forward to blogging more. I need this.
I have my own issues with the d word the a work, but I try to go to work each day and handle the household chores.
I am very sad that he can't see his way clear to reaching out to other people.
I am involved with www.recoveryinternational.org. It is a fine organization that helps people to help themselves with cognitive behavioral training.
Can't get much worse than that.