What We Need to Know to Begin with Psychiatric Treatment

When you are experiencing any kind of mental health condition – depression, anxiety, addiction, ADHD, or another concern – pursuing treatment is the best way to manage symptoms and, where possible, overcome challenges entirely.

While you have a range of different options for treatment, from speaking with a therapist or counselor to discussing concerns with your physician, treatment from a psychiatrist is often a great solution for almost any mental health issue. A psychiatrist is a qualified doctor who was trained specifically in the workings of the brain. This enables a psychiatrist to uniquely understand your concerns and experiences and translate those into a customized treatment plan that can combine medication and talk therapy, giving you the most comprehensive options in order to adequately deliver appropriate treatment. 

A psychiatrist needs to first establish a total picture of each patient. At Aware Behavioral Health, this begins with Dr. Sehdev spending time getting to know you by delving into your symptoms, experiences, and history. Because psychiatric treatment is highly tailored to the individual, this initial intake process can feel intense with many questions that are highly personal, but this enables your psychiatrist to provide the best treatment possible. Knowing what types of questions and topics you can anticipate can help you prepare answers ahead of time and can make the process feel less overwhelming in the moment. 

Why Psychiatrists Need In-Depth Knowledge of Your Mental Health

An initial psychiatric appointment will often be longer as the psychiatrist builds a full picture of your mental and physical health. These appointments may last for at least an hour and more complex mental health conditions may go for longer or require follow up visits before a psychiatrist can begin a treatment plan.

A psychiatrist needs to know about you and your experiences for two main reasons. The first is to provide the diagnosis and the second is to determine which treatment solutions might have the best results (or alternatively, should be avoided).

A diagnosis directs the psychiatrist towards initial ideas for treatment. It can also help you better understand your symptoms and coordinate your healthcare among all of the different health professionals that you may be working with. Oftentimes, the diagnosis is also necessary for insurance purposes in order to have your treatments covered. 

Part of the reason that Dr. Sehdev focuses on building such an in-depth understanding of his patients is that he believes that a diagnosis is more than a label with a defined treatment. Even when you have a relatively good idea of what condition you may be experiencing, we still prioritize knowledge of the specifics of your condition so that we can know if there are secondary conditions, related physical health issues, specific triggers, and severity. This enables us to design the treatment plan that will work for you rather than simply prescribing medication.

A psychiatrist will also direct treatment based on the information you provide during your intake appointment. Mental healthcare is a complicated field and the truth is that not every solution will work for everyone. A complete understanding of your situation can help, but it may still take you and your psychiatrist a few tries to get the results that you want to achieve. By building that understanding of your condition prior to treatment, your psychiatrist can often focus on treatments that are more likely to work and forego those that will probably have less success. 

Topics and Questions that Your Psychiatrist Will Need to Know

The right psychiatrist will guide you through your intake appointment, making sure they collect all of the information that they need to diagnose and treat you. There is no need to memorize every small detail that you want to share since most will naturally come up during the course of your appointment, but it can be helpful to start thinking about your answers ahead of time.

In general, a psychiatrist will ask you questions about your mental health symptoms and experiences, your physical health, and your family history. Specific questions will depend on your psychiatrist and your own situation as they will likely be tailored to your needs, but you can expect the following types of questions.

Your Mental Health Symptoms, Experiences, and Existing Diagnoses 

The bulk of what your psychiatrist needs to know will often revolve around what has prompted you to seek psychiatric treatment in the first place. This is what will help your psychiatrist give you a diagnosis and plan psychiatric treatment that best meets the needs of your condition.

Information that you will need to share with your psychiatrist may include:

  • Emotions – Many mental health conditions impact or are impacted by your emotional state. Your psychiatrist will need to know what emotions you have been experiencing.
  • Behaviors – You will likely discuss what behaviors you have been engaging in or behaviors that you have stopped engaging in, all of which may be the result of a mental health challenge.
  • Recent Changes – Any recent changes in emotions or behaviors or other key events in your life can be indicators of the onset of the condition or a potential trigger that can be addressed during treatment.
  • Frequency of Thoughts and Behaviors – How often you are feeling a certain way, engage in a certain behavior, or experience other symptoms can also indicate the severity of the issue.
  • Longevity of Symptoms – How long you have been experiencing thoughts or behaviors related to your mental health condition will also be helpful in guiding treatment. 
  • Alcohol and Substance Use – Regardless of what you are seeking treatment for, alcohol or other substance use can influence your mental state and your psychiatrist will want to check if there is an over reliance on substances.
  • Suicidal Thoughts – A psychiatrist will ask if you currently or have ever considered or attempted suicide.
  • Previous Diagnoses – If you have worked with a psychiatrist or other health professional in the past, you should share any diagnosis you received.
  • Previous or Current Treatment – If you receive treatment, whether it is medication assisted or otherwise, for any mental health conditions currently or in the past, your psychiatrist will need to know when, what type of treatment, and its effectiveness.

If you have any other challenges or thoughts to share that your psychiatrist does not cover, you are welcome to share those as well. You know yourself and your experiences best, and advocating for yourself by bringing up any additional information will help both you and your psychiatrist to work together on treatment.

Physical Health and History

Although psychiatry focuses on the mind, it is still tied to your physical health. Many mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety, have physical symptoms as well, such as an increase in pain or appetite changes. Conditions like addiction and eating disorders can be physically dangerous.

Alternatively, physical health conditions can also manifest with a mental health challenge, such as chronic pain leading to depression or addiction, or physical health challenges leading to a sexual dysfunction disorder

As a doctor, a psychiatrist is capable of understanding your physical health challenges and how they might relate to mental health issues, and a psychiatrist may ask the following questions:

  • Do you have any existing health conditions?
  • Are you currently on any medication, prescribed or otherwise?
  • Do you experience chronic pain?
  • What physical health diagnoses have you received?
  • Have you ever been prescribed opioids to treat pain?
  • Are there any physical symptoms you are currently experiencing?

Depending on why you are seeking psychiatric treatment and the symptoms you have, a psychiatrist may recommend further tests from a physician or other specialist to diagnose any physical problems that may be contributing to your mental health problems.

Family History 

While genetics are not thought to cause mental health conditions, there is a distinct correlation between family history of mental health conditions in patients who receive a diagnosis. Understanding this history can help a psychiatrist both diagnose and determine treatment.

For these questions, you should consider your immediate family, as well as grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins who are related to you genetically. If possible, this is a good topic to inquire into before meeting with your psychiatrist the first time. It will be helpful to learn about any diagnoses, symptoms, and medications your family members may have had in the past, as well as outcomes to answer questions like:

  • Has a family member ever been treated for a mental health condition? – Having a family member with a particular mental health condition may increase your chances of having that same condition or a similar one.
  • Has a family member taken medication for a mental health condition and what was the result? – There is a correlation between medications that work for one family member producing similar results for other family members.
  • Has any family member experienced similar symptoms without a diagnosis? – Many people do not receive a psychiatric diagnosis but still live with a psychiatric disorder. Any symptoms that you witnessed or heard about from a family member can be an indicator of a condition that a family member may have experienced.

Providing as much information as you can about your family members is helpful, but it can also be some of the more difficult questions that a psychiatrist may ask, so it is not necessary that you have this information in order to begin treatment.

Choosing the Right Psychiatrist to Begin Treatment With

As you can see from these questions, beginning psychiatric treatment requires answering a number of questions that may feel invasive or difficult to talk about. This is understandable, but in order to deliver the best possible treatment, you want to provide your psychiatrist with answers that are as accurate and in-depth as possible. Misrepresenting the truth or leaving out key details can lead to treatment that is less effective or potentially harmful. This makes it important that you have a psychiatrist you can trust. You want one who provides a judgment free space that is encouraging and supportive.

Dr. Sehdev at Aware Behavioral Health works with Dallas patients to create that environment from the beginning. He reassures patients that he is committed to working with you from wherever you are currently starting, ensuring that there is no shame or embarrassment with your answers to these questions or your need to seek help. 

For our Dallas psychiatric treatment for addiction, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and any other mental health condition, we also know that you as the patient will have different facts and considerations that you need to be aware of before beginning treatment. We are available to answer all of your questions to help you feel confident, comfortable, and empowered to reach your mental wellness goals. To get started with a psychiatrist in Dallas, schedule your intake appointment with us today.

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