Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You may start by seeing your primary care doctor. After an initial appointment, your doctor may refer you to a mental health provider, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.

What you can do

Before your appointment, make a list of:

  • Any symptoms you or people close to you have noticed, and for how long
  • Key personal information, including traumatic events in your past and any current major stressors
  • Your medical information, including other physical or mental health conditions
  • All medications you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins and other supplements, and the doses
  • Questions you want to ask your doctor so that you can make the most of your appointment

Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Someone who has known you for a long time may be able to share important information with the doctor or mental health provider, with your permission.

Basic questions to ask your doctor or a mental health provider include:

  • What's likely causing my symptoms or condition?
  • Are there any other possible causes?
  • What treatments are most likely to be effective for me?
  • How much can I expect my symptoms to improve with treatment?
  • How often will I need therapy sessions and for how long?
  • Are there medications that can help?
  • What are the possible side effects of the medication you may prescribe?
  • Do I need to take any precautions or follow any restrictions?
  • I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • How can my family or close friends help me in my treatment?
  • Do you have any printed material that I can take? What websites do you recommend?

Don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

A doctor or mental health provider is likely to ask you a number of questions. Be ready to answer them to save time for topics you want to focus on. Possible questions include:

  • What are your symptoms? When did you first notice them?
  • How are these symptoms affecting your life, including your personal relationships and work?
  • How often during the course of a normal day do you experience a mood swing?
  • How often have you felt betrayed, victimized or abandoned? Why do you think that happened?
  • How well do you manage anger?
  • How well do you manage being alone?
  • How would you describe your sense of self-worth?
  • Have you ever felt you were bad, or even evil?
  • Have you had any problems with self-destructive or risky behavior?
  • Have you ever thought of or tried to harm yourself or attempted suicide?
  • Do you use alcohol or recreational drugs or abuse prescription drugs? How often?
  • How would you describe your childhood, including your relationship with your parents or caregivers?
  • Were you physically or sexually abused or were you neglected as a child?
  • Have any of your close relatives or caregivers been diagnosed with a mental health problem, such as a personality disorder?
  • Have you been treated for any other mental health problems? If yes, what diagnoses were made, and what treatments were most effective?
  • Are you currently being treated for any other medical conditions?

If you have suicidal thoughts

If you have fantasies or mental images about hurting yourself or have other suicidal thoughts, get help right away by taking one of these actions:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
  • Call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor.
  • Call your mental health provider, doctor or other health care provider.
  • Reach out to a loved one, close friend, trusted peer or co-worker.
  • Contact someone from your faith community.
July 30, 2015