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How to Talk with Your Doctor About Mental Health

When your body isn’t well, you head to the doctor. But what if your mind isn’t feeling quite right? Your health care provider should hear these concerns, too.If you’re feeling depressed, anxious, or are having other trouble with thinking and emotions, don’t be afraid to speak up. Talking with your provider about your mental health could be the first step in feeling better. To get the best care possible, follow these tips.

Make an Appointment ASAP

Start by talking with your primary care provider. Many health conditions can cause mental health symptoms. Your provider can do a full physical exam to see if your symptoms have an underlying cause. He or she may refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist. When you make an appointment to discuss mental health, tell the person on the phone why you’re calling. For example, you could say you think you might have depression and would like to get help. This will allow him or her to book enough time at your visit for you and your health care provider to discuss your concerns. If you’re really struggling, you may feel like you need to talk with someone as soon as you can. If you can’t get in to see a provider as soon as you’d like, ask to be added to the cancellations waiting list. If someone cancels, you might be able to squeeze in a last-minute appointment. In an emergency situation, such as when you are thinking of harming yourself, go to the emergency room immediately.

Be Honest and Open

You may feel embarrassed to talk about mental health concerns. But don’t let this keep you from speaking up. Your provider wants what’s best for you. To give you an accurate diagnosis and the proper treatment, he or she needs to know what’s going on. Keep in mind that close to one in five Americans lives with a mental illness. So what you’re going through isn’t unusual.

Get Specific About Symptoms

Your health care provider will want to know what symptoms you’re experiencing. Tell him or her everything you can, including symptoms that you think might not be related to mental health. It may help to write down your thoughts before your appointment.

When you tell your provider about a symptom, mention:

  • How often the symptom occurs
  • How severe the symptom is
  • If you’ve had this symptom before
  • When it started

In addition, tell your health care provider about any big life events or personal changes. It’s normal to feel sad after the death of a loved one, for example. But depression that lasts for weeks and affects your well-being may benefit from treatment. Even if your provider doesn’t ask, bring up any information that you think might be relevant.

Ask Questions

A conversation with your health care provider should be a two-way street. Speak up if you have questions about what he or she is saying. Mental health problems are treatable. Talking with your provider can help you find the treatment you need and start feeling well again.

 

Sources

“Depression.” Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/depression.

“Depression Basics.” National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health. www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml.

“For People with Mental Health Problems.” MentalHealth.gov, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/people-mental-health-problems.

“Finding a Mental Health Professional.” National Alliance on Mental Illness. www.nami.org/Find-Support/Living-with-a-Mental-Health-Condition/Finding-a-Mental-Health-Professional.

“Getting the Most from Your Doctor Appointment.” American Academy of Family Physicians. https://familydoctor.org/tips-for-talking-to-your-doctor/.

“Men and Depression.” National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health. www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/men-and-depression/index.shtml.

“Mental Health.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. https://medlineplus.gov/mentalhealth.html.

“Mental Health Conditions: Depression and Anxiety.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/depression-anxiety.html.

“Mental Illness.” National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health. www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml.

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