Friday 16 December 2016

How To Talk To Your Doctor About Your Mental Health

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Going to your doctor to talk about your mental health can seem like the most daunting thing ever. The fear of looking crazy, insane or just plain weird would stop anyone seeking the help they need. The fear that it's all just in your head, you're making it up, and there's nothing no one can do to help you, can make getting support from professionals challenging or even just simply sharing and talking about some of your deepest thoughts can be a challenge and make getting help, seem impossible.

But trust me, it's not. Talking to your doctor about your mental health is never going to be easy. Even after seeing my doctor, basically every month for around a year, I still find it incredibly hard to talk about my mental health sometimes. But what you have to realise is that getting help is one of the best ways you can get better and start getting your life back on track.

Seeking help is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it's one of the bravest things you can do. Your mental illness won't go on its own, most of the time they just get worse over time if you don't get the help you need, whether that be talking therapies such as CBT or medication. No one is going to think you are crazy, insane or mad. Realising something is wrong and getting help, is incredibly brave and something that should be admired. However, it can be difficult to know where to start, so here are nine tips to help you prepare and make the most out of your doctor's appointment. 

#1 Choose The Right Doctor 

I understand this may seem a little bit odd but let me explain. If you have a doctor who you know pretty well already and you feel comfortable talking to, it's best to book an appointment with them. If you don't have much experience with any of the doctors in your surgery, lots of people say it's best to stay away from the newly qualified doctors, as they might not have as much experience dealing with mental health issues, especially if you think yours are going to be quite complex. In the same way, some people don't like older doctors because they are not used to dealing with mental health issues because when they started training, looking after those with a mental illness wasn't part of their job. That being said, most doctors now have regular, and up to date training on dealing with mental health problems, so you shouldn't let that put you off. 

#2 Prepare What Your Going To Say 

If you're nervous, it can be easy to get tongue tied, forget what you want to say and end up not getting the help you need because you can't get the words out. If you're someone who has experienced this before, you may benefit from writing what you want to say down first. You don't have to show the doctor this, it could just be noted on paper or even on your phone, with little bullet points outlining the things you wanted to discuss and any questions you may have, but by doing this can help you organise your thoughts and make sure you are getting the most of the 10 minute appointment. 

#3 Take Someone With You, For Moral Support 

Okay, this point isn't going to be for everyone. I know when I went to the doctor to talk about my OCD, I did not want anyone to come with me. I knew if I took my parents with me, I wouldn't be 100% honest and as a result, not get the help I needed. If you have told someone about what you are going through and think you will benefit from taking them with you to the doctor, I would strongly recommend you ask them. They will be there to support & help you if you get upset. As well as being able to provide an outside perspective for how you are being affected in your daily life. They may be able to tell the doctor what changes they have seen in your behaviour, to help the doctor make an informed decision about what further support you need. 

#4 Book A Double Appointment

When you book your appointment, ask to book a double appointment, if it's possible. It can be hard to tell the doctor, everything you need to in the space of 10 minutes and to agree on a suitable and appropriate plan going forward. To feel like you are not being rushed or telling the doctor everything you need to, to get the help you need, a double appointment may be necessary. 

#5 Take Your Time 

At most doctors surgeries you will only have 10-minute appointments, but don't let that put you off going to get help or telling the doctor everything you need to. Take your time when describing what's bothering you and how you have been feeling recently. The doctor will lead the consultation but don't let that put you off going into detail about what you need to. If they ask you, a question don't feel like if you have to answer really quickly and briefly. Get the most out of the appointment and don't rush what you're saying in fear of putting them behind schedule. You have as much right to get the help you need, like any other patient there. 

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#6 Be As Honest As You Can 

To get the help you need, it's important to be as honest and truthful about what you are struggling with. I know how difficult it can be to be really honest, that fear of being judged can hold us back from getting the help we need, but it's important to remember that doctors are non-judgemental, they want to help you with whatever you are struggling with; physical or emotional. For them to do their job, being as honest as you can will benefit you greatly. 

#7 Get There Early If You Are Nervous 

The worst thing you can do is turn up flushed and stressed. If you have to travel by car or public transport, it's best to leave with plenty of time just in case the unexpected happens. If you turn up without much time to spare, you may stumble on your words or forget what about you were going to say. If you don't mind doctors surgeries, get there with time to spare, however, if doctors surgeries make you stressed, it may be best to not get there super early, but instead you could wait outside and go in when you're ready, so you know your not going to be late. 

#8 Don't Be Embarrassed 

This is often easier said than done. I remember when I first went to the doctor, I described myself as being ashamed and embarrassed by my behaviour and compulsions. It's natural to feel this way. However, you shouldn't feel this way really because the doctors aren't there to judge you. Most doctors have had proper training in dealing with mental health issues, they know how to support you and what medication may be right for you. You may think your the first person to ever walk through their door with this particular issue but I can 100% guarantee that you are not. Doctors see hundreds of patients in a week, they see all kinds of illnesses both mental and physical. You are not alone, and they are not there to judge you, they just want to help you. 

#9 If You Don't Get The Support You Need, Book To See Another Doctor 

This point totally contradicts what I said previously. Although most doctors are fully trained in dealing with mental health issues, know how to talk to you about your difficulties sensitively and ensure you get the support you need. Unfortunately, not everyone is fortunate to have a positive doctors experience when going to discuss mental health. Although you shouldn't let these examples put you off seeking help, if you are unfortunate enough to not get the help you need, or you don't feel satisfied with your experience and help, it's incredibly important to keep going back until you get the help you need. Your wellbeing is paramount at the end of the day, you should never settle for second best when it comes to mental health care.

I hope some of you find this post useful. If you know anyone that may benefit from this post, I would really appreciate you sending them a link to help them reach out and get the support they need. 

Thank you for reading, as always X
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