I get really bad doctor anxiety and have trouble saying what I want to say at appointments. I find writing things down as I think of them days in advance helps. Here are some pointers on making appointments with your psychiatrist effective for both of you.
Be honest. This is important. Don’t lie to your psychiatrist. Don’t exaggerate. Don’t hide symptoms. Don’t be embarrassed. He’s probably heard it all before.
If you think a medication is or isn’t working, tell you psychiatrist this and why. It’s important to be informed on your medications. It’s important not to control your medications, because the psychiatrist is the one with the MD and training, but if something isn’t working, you have the right to say so.
Psychiatrists don’t often offer therapy much anymore*, but they do need to know about your life and general health. A psychiatrist is trained in diagnosing mental illness and treating it with psychotropic drugs, or a referral for therapy or other care, like a medical doctor would diagnose a physical illness and treat it with the appropriate care or medication.
Don’t focus so much on your diagnosis, focus on your symptoms(1). The diagnosis is generally used in communication with insurance companies and too many people get caught up in the diagnosis hype. Treating symptoms is most important. Right now, the DSM has just changed over to the DSM 5(2), and things are confusing. It can take a while to reach a diagnosis, so focus on eliminating the symptoms and getting better.
Be reasonable with your psychiatrist. There is no magic pill (I’ve been told this by so many doctors) and you have to work at it, too. Mood trackers, therapy, keep track of medications, go to all appointments. Don’t stop a medication unless you’re having a side effect that could kill you. Some medications require blood tests – get them done. Work with your psychiatrist.
A psychiatrist is a doctor and is going to have good and bad days. There are good and bad psychiatrists out there, trust me, I’ve had a couple of bad ones. Fortunately, right now, I like my psychiatrist. It’s not always easy to change doctors, especially if you’re in a country like Canada (where I am) and there’s a doctor shortage. A psychiatrist should always remain professional and never be rude to you.
*A psychiatrist is a doctor trained in psychiatry with an M.D. A psychologist is more often referred to as a therapist and you spend more time working on issues with them. Very few psychiatrists offer 50 minute appointments with a couch, a notepad and psychotherapy anymore, unfortunately.
Signs of a good psychiatrist:
- They listen to your concerns and don’t ask the same questions over and over. They will ask relevant questions, about your mood, your current situation, and current meds.
I had a psychiatrist that asked me, every appointment, if I had quit smoking “dope” yet. I had never smoked “dope” in the entire time I saw him.
- They respect your concerns, needs and what you say.
- They stop medications if they don’t work, or if the side effects get bad. I had a psychiatrist bitch at me when I had to stop lithium due to diabetes insipidus. He said I “complained too much”. Same one that accused me of smoking dope. I had two doctors telling me I couldn’t take lithium, and that psychiatrist was being a jackass, he had never heard of the condition. Fortunately, he retired. (Note: I only stayed with him because of how hard it is to find a doctor in this area)
- A good psychiatrist respects your wishes with medications and doesn’t intimidate you about them. You should be able to be open about medications – you live with the side effects of them and you also pay for them one way or another.
- No psychiatrist should tell you you’re going to fail or never get better. If they feel that way, they should refer you.
- They should schedule appointments appropriately. Some people need to be seen every few months, some need to be seen more often.
- They should have open time to see a patient in crisis. Sometimes they can’t get you in that afternoon, but they should be able to get you in fast.
- Keeping you waiting for hours in the waiting room is not good. They should also return phone calls in good time. It’s disrespectful and unprofessional not to.
- You should feel comfortable and not threatened with the doctor.(3)