Explaining medication usage to the patient (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Getting the Best Care You Can
Choosing a good psychiatrist can be a tricky job, especially when you are in the midst of a crisis. But it is important to find a doctor that you are comfortable with and that you can work with, otherwise you may not get the care you deserve.
Do you suffer from depression, bipolar disorder or other mental disorders? If so you are not alone. Many people suffer along with you. But how do you know if you need professional help? Feeling overwhelmed and unable to function in your daily life is a good sign that you may need help. Reducing stress and getting counseling may help, but if your symptoms are severe then you may want to see a psychiatrist.
Note: If you are in crisis, such as feeling suicidal get help from a psychiatrist right away. You may need to check yourself into a hospital to get the proper care.
How to Know if You Have a Good Doctor
Unfortunately not all doctors are created equal. Here are the characteristics of a true professional:
A good doctor will listen to you. If he rushes you or spends more time filling out your prescription slips than talking with you, you need to find someone else.
He should be willing to discuss options and address your concerns about medications. If you are worried about side-effects or the potential for addiction, then you should feel comfortable about bringing these issues up.
The doctor-patient relationship should be one of partnership. He may be an expert in his field, but you are the expert on yourself. If your symptoms don’t match his treatment plan then you may have to find someone else (it helps if you do some research on your own to find out what the proper treatment is for your condition).
If a particular medication is not helping you, you should be able to talk to your doctor about making changes. (Bear in mind though that some medications, such as antidepressants, can take up to several weeks to be effective).
Note: There are a lot of GP ‘s who are willing to dispense psychiatric drugs. My personal feeling is that this is unwise. Only a professional psychiatrist is qualified to diagnose and to treat mental disorders. Also not everyone who is mildly depressed needs medication.
Getting the Most out of Your Visit
Bring a list of all your current medications and dosages, including non-psychiatric drugs. Include past medications, and if you have had any allergic reactions or side-effects with them.Also bring a list of past medical history, including hospitalizations.
Tell your doctor about all of your symptoms even if you think that they are not important or you think you can handle them on your own. Many people are misdiagnosed because the doctor is not given the proper information.
Ask questions such as “What is my diagnosis? What are the side-effects of my medications? Are they addictive?”
Note: There are some medications that can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as certain antidepressants. However the clinical definition of addiction means having to take more and more to get the same effect, in other words abusing your medications. There is no abuse potential with antidepressants, even though you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you go off of it. However tranquilizers and sleeping pills can be abused so it is a good idea to be cautious with them.
If you are uncomfortable with taking a particular medication, ask for alternatives. For instance if you are concerned about addiction to sleeping pills or tranquilizers, there are non-addictive medications available that have the side effect of sedation.
Note: If you are in a crisis you may not be able to apply all these steps. If this is so, it would be a good idea to bring in a trusted friend or family member to advocate for you.
After Your Visit
Educate yourself about your medications and side-effects. The doctor may not have time to discuss every side-effect that could happen. Read the information sheets that comes with your prescriptions. You may also want to talk with your pharmacist, who may be more familiar with side-effects than your doctor.
Learn more about your illness. Again your doctor may not have time to explain it in detail. Remember that educating yourself about your illness makes it easier to to get the proper care. You can make a note of your symptoms and take that information to your doctor.
Remember that the quality of health care that you receive is up to you. Following these suggestions can help you get the best care possible.
If you are interested in some of my personal experiences with Psychiatrists then click on these three links: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.