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Partnering with your doctor

Tips for your next doctor’s visit

When it comes to treating depression, it takes strength and courage to ask for the help you need. Talk to your doctor about the symptoms you’re experiencing during your next appointment. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, many people with depression never seek treatment. Some don’t recognize the symptoms, while others feel too ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help.

In a perfect world, partnering with your health care professional to talk about your depression treatment options would be a relatively easy task. But we know that in reality, things can get in the way. Doctors may sometimes be pressed for time. You may forget the questions you meant to ask during your visit. And sometimes you may ask questions only to get home and realize you’re not quite clear about the answers. Here are some smart ways for you and your health care professional to work together to make sure you’re getting the most out of your next visit.

A good starting point

Here are a few thoughts that may lead to a more productive conversation with your health care professional:

  • First, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of depression
  • Share the impact your symptoms are having on your life
  • Tell your doctor what’s important to you—even if it makes you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable
  • Provide as much relevant information as you can about how you’re feeling, including your symptoms, health history, and other conditions you may have
  • Share your family history of depression (if any)
  • Tell your health care professional about all the medications you are currently taking
  • Talk about any vitamins, herbal products, or alternative medications you’re taking
Getting the answers you need

We just talked about some steps you can take to make sure your health care professional has the information needed from you. Now, how can you ensure that you get the information you need? Here are some tips to help make that happen:

  • Ask questions. If you don’t, your health care professional may assume you understand everything you’ve been told
  • Write your questions down before your appointment. It may help you remember what you want to ask
  • Create a Doctor Discussion Guide to help you get the most out of your time with your health care professional
  • Bring a friend or family member along with you to the appointment. This person can help you ask questions or can help you to understand and remember the answers
  • If medication is prescribed, ask your doctor what you can expect from the medication, including possible side effects and when you’ll notice improvement
Following up from home
  • If you find you still have questions after your visit, feel free to call your doctor’s office and ask them
  • Most medications have Web sites you can visit to get answers to common treatment questions
  • If you experience a problem with your medication, call and let your health care professional know right away
  • If you’ve had medical tests taken and no one calls you with the results, call in and ask for them. And don’t hesitate to ask what they mean
  • If you are asked to have certain medical tests taken, make the appointments and get them done

By now you’ve read some smart tips to help you better partner with your doctor and get the most out of your visit. While the list may seem long, if you employ just a few tips at a time, you may find your visits will be much richer experiences.

Don’t forget to discuss what’s important to you. Be your own advocate. Successful treatment of depression is a realistic goal. When correctly diagnosed and treated, the majority of people with depression experience improvement of their symptoms and go on to live productive lives.

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