Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're seeking help for someone with mental illness, you may start by seeing his or her family doctor or a general practitioner, or you may be referred to a psychiatrist.

What you can do

To prepare for the appointment:

  • Make a list of any symptoms your loved one is experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for the appointment.
  • Bring key personal information and include any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of medications, vitamins, herbal preparations and any other supplements that he or she is taking and the dosages.
  • Go with your loved one to the appointment so that you know what you're facing and what you can do to help.
  • Make a list of questions to ask the doctor to help you make the most of your time.

For schizoaffective disorder, some basic questions to ask include:

  • What is likely causing the symptoms or condition?
  • Are there any other possible causes?
  • How will you determine the diagnosis?
  • Is this condition likely temporary or long term (chronic)?
  • What treatments do you recommend for this condition?
  • What are the side effects of medications commonly used for this condition?
  • If the treatment approach isn't effective, what will you recommend next?
  • What kinds of counseling might help?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
  • Are there any brochures or other 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

Your doctor is likely to ask you several questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to focus on. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did your loved one start experiencing symptoms?
  • Have symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • Has your loved one talked about suicide?
  • How is your loved one functioning in daily life — is he or she eating regularly, bathing regularly, going to work or school?
  • Have other family members or friends expressed concern about your loved one's behavior?
  • Have any of your loved one's close relatives been diagnosed or treated for mental illness?
Jan. 25, 2014