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 immediately to a psychiatrist.

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 family members 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 dosages of any medications, herbs, vitamins or other supplements you're taking.
  • Questions you want 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?
  • What are other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
  • 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 psychotherapy, and for how long?
  • Are there medications that can help?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
  • If you're recommending medications, what are the possible side effects?
  • I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material I can take? 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 spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:

  • What are your symptoms?
  • When did you or your family first notice these symptoms?
  • How are your symptoms affecting your life?
  • Have your family members or friends expressed concern about your behavior?
  • Do you feel comfortable in social situations? Why or why not?
  • Do you have any close relationships?
  • If you're not satisfied with work, school or relationships, what do you think is causing your problems?
  • Have you ever thought about harming yourself or others? Have you ever actually done so?
  • Have you ever felt that other people can control your thoughts or that you could influence other people and events through your thoughts?
  • Have any of your close relatives been diagnosed or treated for mental illness?