Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You're likely to start by first seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner.

If a clear diagnosis can't be made by your family doctor, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in brain and nervous system disorders (neurologist) or a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental disorders (psychiatrist).

Your doctor or doctors will want to make sure your symptoms aren't caused by an underlying neurological condition such as epilepsy or another disorder. Because depersonalization disorder sometimes occurs along with depression or other psychological disorders, your doctor may also want to investigate whether you may have one of these conditions as well.

Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and know what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which 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. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so preparing a list of questions ahead of time will help you make the most of your time together. Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • Do I need any tests to confirm the diagnosis?
  • What treatments are available? Which do you recommend?
  • Are there alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • Do I need to see a specialist?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing for me?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
  • Do you have any chronic health conditions?
  • Do you have any mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
  • What medications or herbal supplements do you take?
  • Do you use drugs or drink alcohol?
Jul. 07, 2011