Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You may see your primary care doctor, or your doctor may refer you to a physician who specializes in mental health (psychiatrist). Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

These steps can help you make the most of your appointment:

  • Write down any symptoms you've had, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason you scheduled the appointment.
  • Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins and supplements that you're taking.
  • Take a family member or friend along, if possible — someone who comes with you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Prepare a list of questions ahead of time, from most to least important in case time runs out. Basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • Is depression the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • 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 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 with the medications you're recommending?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
  • Do you have printed material that I can have? What websites do you recommend?

Don't hesitate to ask questions anytime you don't understand something.

What to expect from your doctor

Be ready to answer questions from your doctor to reserve time to discuss your concerns. Your doctor 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?
  • How severe are your symptoms? Do they interfere with your daily life or relationships?
  • Does your mood ever swing from feeling down to feeling euphoric and full of energy?
  • How do you react to good news or positive events?
  • How do you react to criticism or rejection?
  • Do you constantly feel hungry or regularly overeat?
  • How much do you sleep every day?
  • Do you often feel tired or irritable?
  • Do you ever have suicidal thoughts?
  • Do you have any biological (blood) relatives with depression or another mood disorder? What treatment has helped them?
  • What other mental or physical health conditions do you have?
  • Do you drink alcohol or use illegal drugs?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
Sep. 20, 2012

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