Pre-Shrink My Bi-Polar
November 9, 2013 3:33 PM   Subscribe

What should I do to prepare for my first visit with a Psychiatrist?

I've had bouts of depression during the past 20 years. Which I've dealt (poorly) with this on my own with little success. This FPP convinced me that I have type-II Bi-Polar. Which was enough to make me finally seek treatment.

I have my first appointment with a psychiatrist next week. But I've no clue how to prepare. So please provide me with a check list so I know what to bring and what not to bring. (Health history? List of current medications? Dates of depressive episodes? Etc.)

How should I (or should I) mention my Self-Diagnosis. Can I just say, "Hi, doc, I think I'm bi-polar and would like to try some lithium. Please and thank you"?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You don't need to diagnose yourself or prescribe treatment for yourself. That's what the doctor is for!

You can certainly mention that you think you may have Bipolar II. What will be most helpful, though, are detailed descriptions of your symptoms. Dates of depressive symptoms would probably be great. Because it's hard to distinguish sometimes between depression and bipolar disorder, definitely bring up any symptoms of mania or hypomania.

Your doctor should talk you through most of those symptom checklists, but it can be helpful to at least go through it in your head ahead of time so that you don't forget anything that's bothered you.

They'll probably ask about any family history of psychiatric issues, especially depression and bipolar disorder, so you might want to think about that, too.

Definitely bring a list of current medications. Is there some reason you're assuming you want lithium? There are a lot of different medications now for treating bipolar disorder. If lithium has worked well for another family member, for instance, then it'll be worthwhile mentioning that. But if there's not a real reason you're wanting lithium, then just try to keep an open mind about your treatment plan. Your psychiatrist may want to start with one medication over another because of your particular symptoms, health history, or other medications.
posted by jaguar at 3:43 PM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

One thing I've learned in attempting to get my own Bipolar II treated, is that the doctor wants to know how your symptoms are at the worst, not just on the regular. If you're able to be sitting there talking to him, obviously you're doing relatively OK -- but what's it like on days when you wouldn't have been able to get it together to get to the doctor?
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 3:49 PM on November 9, 2013

This article on What to expect for your first visit with your psychiatrist is a good overview of the process.
posted by jaguar at 3:50 PM on November 9, 2013

A list of your current medications is great, including any non-psychiatric meds and vitamins and supplements or over-the-counter medications that you take regularly. If you have medications that you've had a bad reaction to in the past, a list of those would be useful. You can bring any recent hospital paperwork (discharge summary, etc.) but it will probably end up in your chart or file. If you have a list of your depressive episodes and significant events relating to your mental health, that would probably be amazing.

When I see any new doctor, I type up a form with my name, address, phone number, social security number and insurance information. This is mostly because my handwriting is appalling and I'd like for them to have one clean, easy to read copy of my particulars. I also make a copy of my insurance card, front and back. They can do this at the office, of course, but it saves time.

One of the most important thing you can do with ANY doctor is not downplay your symptoms. Be honest about your symptoms and their effect on your life. Good luck!
posted by Aquifer at 6:55 PM on November 9, 2013

I feel like I give this advice a lot! Be excruciatingly honest during this visit. It's like the doctor is a detective and you're the CSI. You need to hand over every single clue, even if you don't think it's important. Do you know how many doctors had asked me over the years if I ever heard or saw things that weren't there? And do you know how many times I said no, because that's just crazy, of course not. It took tremendous effort to finally say "well, yes, sometimes..." and it changed everything. My diagnosis changed, my meds changed, things got better. So yeah, make a list of weird things your brain does.
It's hard not to go into this with preconceived notions. The most important thing to remember is that you and the doctor are partners. Sometimes people see the doctor as a gatekeeper who is standing between them and their meds. You may have Bipolar, or you may not. If you go into this appointment with an open mind and just report what is going on in your head you'll be on your way to getting better.
posted by Biblio at 6:51 AM on November 11, 2013

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