Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or primary care provider. Or, you may start by seeing a mental health provider such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Because appointments can be brief and 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 what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do:

  • Record your symptoms so that you can tell your doctor or mental health provider exactly what they are (feeling down or having a lack of energy, for example).
  • Write down information about your depression patterns, such as when your depression starts and what seems to make it better or worse.
  • Make a note of any other mental or physical health problems you have. Both can affect mood.
  • Write down any major stressors or life changes you've had recently.
  • Make a list of all medications you're taking, including vitamins or supplements.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For seasonal affective disorder, some basic questions to ask include:

  • Are my symptoms most likely caused by seasonal affective disorder, or could they be due to something else?
  • What else could be causing or worsening my symptoms of depression?
  • What are the best treatment options?
  • Are there any restrictions that I need to follow or steps I should take to help improve my mood?
  • Should I see a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health provider? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover seeing a specialist?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions at any time during your appointment.

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:

  • What are your symptoms?
  • When did you first begin having 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 other physical or mental health conditions?
  • Are you taking any medications, supplements or herbal remedies?
  • Do you use alcohol or drugs?
  • Do any of your blood relatives have seasonal affective disorder or another mental health condition?

Your doctor may also ask other questions depending on your individual situation.

Sep. 22, 2011