Preparing for your appointment

You're likely to start by seeing your primary care doctor. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred directly to a mental health professional.

Take a family member or friend along, if possible. With your permission, someone who has known you for a long time may be able to answer questions or share information with the doctor that you don't think to bring up.

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 your family noticed and for how long. Ask friends or relatives if they've felt concerned about your behavior and what they've noticed.
  • Key personal information, including traumatic events in your past and any current, major stressors. Find out about your family's medical history, including any history of mental illness.
  • Your medical information, including other physical or mental health conditions with which you've been diagnosed.
  • All medications you take, including the names and doses of any medications, herbs, vitamins or other supplements.
  • Questions to ask your doctor to make the most of your appointment.

Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
  • What are other possible causes?
  • Is my condition likely temporary or long term?
  • What treatments are most likely to be effective for me?
  • If you're recommending medications, what are the possible side effects?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
  • How much can I expect my symptoms to improve with treatment?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Are there brochures or other printed materials that I can have? What websites do you recommend?

Don't hesitate to ask any other questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

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

  • What are the problems or symptoms that concern you?
  • Have you noticed that your symptoms get worse in certain situations? If yes, what are those situations, and how do you handle them?
  • Do you have close friends or family? If not, does it bother you?
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • Do you frequently choose to do things by yourself?
  • Do you confide in anyone who is not in your immediate family?
  • What do you prefer to do in your free time?
  • Have you ever thought about harming yourself or others? Have you ever done so?
  • Have your family members or friends expressed concern about your behavior?
  • Have any of your close relatives been diagnosed with or treated for mental illness?
  • Do you drink alcohol or use drugs? If so, how often?