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Talking to a Doctor about Your Mental Health

June 19, 2013

Before receiving a schizoaffective diagnosis, a physical exam and mental evaluation will be necessary. If you experience symptoms of psychosis and mood changes, or see signs of schizoaffective in someone you care about, it may be time to involve medical professionals.


Often times, scheduling an appointment with a general practitioner can be a good first step in debunking the mysteries of mental health problems. Your physician may not be able to treat you in his or her office, but likely knows someone who specializes in diagnosing mental health disorders.

The purpose of this post is to prepare you for having a conversation with your general practitioner, as a first step in exploring your mental health options. This basic overview includes advice about:

– How to honestly approach this difficult conversation
– How to best prepare for the first appointment
– Questions you can expect a doctor to ask

Some of this information may also be useful as you begin working with a psychiatrist, for medical treatments, and psychologist when it is time to invest in talk therapy. Use this material to ensure you receive an accurate mental health diagnosis which will be helpful in guiding you and your team of medical professionals to finding the right treatment plan for you.

Seek Honest Advice

It is understandable that approaching this doctor’s appointment may cause nervousness. Talking about mental health concerns is never easy. However, it is important to be honest and detailed when speaking with the doctor and medical team.

If you are concerned about being able to recall symptoms accurately, you may want to involve a family member in the evaluation process. In fact, bringing along someone who knows you well can be helpful in presenting necessary information honestly. This is because it is hard to be self-aware when challenged by psychosis and mood swings. Having an outsider who can share a different perspective helps the doctor immensely.

Preparing for the First Appointment

To help you prepare honest and detail information at your first appointment, below is a list of a few things that you may want to speak to your doctor about.

1)      Make a list of your symptoms. Also, ask family members to compile lists of your symptoms as they see them.
2)      Consider when the symptoms began to appear, and what major events, stressful situations, or life changes were attached to them.
3)      Write down any medications you are currently taking. Include over the counter pills, syrups, and vitamins as well.
4)      Prepare a list of questions you have for the doctor. Even if you have done online research, still pose your questions to a medical professional in a conversational setting.

Anticipate the Doctor’s Questions

The doctor will be happy you are prepared and honest about your symptoms and concerns. In addition, the medical professional will also have a list of questions to ask you. Here are some examples of questions a general practitioner may ask when curious about a patient’s mental health. For your first appointment, have some answers prepared to questions like these:

1)      Do the symptoms appear all the time or do they manifest in cycles?
2)      Do you experience suicidal thoughts?
3)      Do you have difficulty performing everyday tasks?
4)      What is your family’s medical history?
5)      What is your family’s mental health history?

Your mental health symptoms are unique. While there is a lot of information you can consult online, talking with medical professionals is the only way to diagnose mental health problems.

Talking with your physician is a good first step in getting a proper diagnosis. Your doctor will want to perform a physical exam, collect a complete medical history, and ask you questions in order to begin the diagnosis process right. It may take a team of medical professionals to determine exactly what you are dealing with, so don’t become discouraged if you leave your first appointment still having questions.

Remember to be honest and detailed when you speak with a doctor. He or she wants to help guide you in finding the best treatment plan for you.


*Please note: All research for this article is compiled from direct and third party sources. Mention of programs, organizations and companies does not imply support of The National Benefit Authority.  Pictures are for creative purposes only; they are not intended to sell or promote products for the NBA and belong to the accredited individual, organization or company.

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