Everything you need to know about consulting a psychiatrist for the first time
If you’re considering, or are actively planning to consult a psychiatrist, it’s likely that you have some questions. Here’s some information, alongside FAQs, that’ll help you feel better prepared.
What is psychiatry?
It is the branch of medicine that deals with assessing, diagnosing, treating, and managing—various mental disorders which affect emotion, cognition, and behavior.
Who is a psychiatrist?
Psychiatrists are doctors who specialize in psychiatry; they have completed an MD (Doctor of Medicine) in psychiatry after an MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) course.
They specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues. During their training, they study the brain's functions and its complex relationship with the body. They are qualified to distinguish between physical and psychological causes of mental and physical distress.
How do psychiatrists diagnose their patients?
As trained physicians, psychiatrists are qualified to conduct a full range of medical and psychological tests that help them understand the physical and mental state of an individual. After evaluating the information collected using these tests, they arrive at a diagnosis and prescribe the required treatment.
What kind of treatments do psychiatrists prescribe?
After a diagnosis is made the psychiatrist will prescribe a plan of treatment—which can include psychotherapy, medication or hospitalization—depending on the severity of the person’s mental health issue.
In case psychotherapy is needed, they may refer the person to a clinical psychologist/counselor who is trained in the type of therapy required.
Where do psychiatrists work?
They consult in a number of facilities including—
General hospitals with a psychiatry department, psychiatric hospitals
They are also employed in the public health sector; in courts and prisons (for the purpose of evaluating the mental health of suspects or inmates); schools and universities; and the industrial sector to offer their expertise.
On your first appointment with a psychiatrist, they will collect information from you to make an informed diagnosis and devise a proper treatment plan. Here are some questions they may ask you—
Once the doctor has taken down your’s and your family’s, and has enough information about your symptoms and condition, they will offer a primary diagnosis and a plan of treatment which may involve medication, therapy or both.
However, given the possibility of long gaps between appointments, it makes sense to ask as many questions as you can about your primary diagnosis.
It can be overwhelming and exhausting to answer several questions in your first appointment. You can use the points below as a checklist, to help you get through the first session smoothly:
Make a list of all your symptoms.
Try and think of triggers for your symptoms, and list them.
Keep a full medical history ready, including all medications that you use/have used.
Take a friend or family member along—someone you trust—as the appointment can be overwhelming.
Remember to be as honest as you can. Everything that happens in an appointment with a psychiatrist is confidential—unless there is a risk of you harming yourself or someone else— and the only way treatment is most efficient is when the client cooperates in answering the questions asked. Considering or having decided to seek professional help is a decision in the right direction. We wish you the very best.