Talking about Anxiety with your Doctor?

#Anxiety, #depression, #doctor, #GP, #start a conversation, #take the first step

How to Talk About Anxiety/Depression to your Doctor?

Due to our present set of circumstances such as COVID and the associated work-life challenges many of us are enduring, you will discover how depression, anxiety, bipolar, and other mental health issues have become common and are spoken about in the media more than ever. In fact, according to a June 2020 study by the Medical Journal of Australia, mental health problems have become at least “twice as prevalent as in non-pandemic circumstances.”

Discussing mental health issues can be one of the hardest and most difficult things an individual will share. Perhaps your eating habits have changed, you are in a state of deep sadness, you are unable to concentrate on things, you are not sleeping well or have other symptoms connected to anxiety, depression or possibly another mental health concern. If these ‘symptoms’ are persistent and last more than a couple of weeks, instead of attempting to self-diagnose by using Google or talking to a family member or friend… try talking to your GP or qualified mental health professional about why you are feeling overwhelmed and the various emotions you are experiencing.

Talking to your doctor might seem like a difficult option because you do not know how to express your feelings, or you are afraid you might be misdiagnosed. For many people talking to their doctor about anxiety and depression is as scary as the problem itself.

We understand what you are going through and would like to provide you with some useful tips that will help you a get ready for your GP appointment and to overcome or reduce any fears and apprehension you may have.

Taking the first step

Many of us are comfortable talking with our hairdresser about our emotional issues rather than talking to our doctor? Well, it happens to a lot of us. When we have self-doubt, possibly feeling embarrassed combined with having a natural resistance not to “open up and be vulnerable”. These thoughts are natural barriers we face when attempting to explain our feelings, emotions, and experiences to our doctor. Mental health is a very personal and sensitive issue that you need to discuss. However, prioritising who to talk with – your general practitioner should be at the top of your list.

People also reach out to a psychologist or counsellor to start a conversation. Talking with a psychologist is a great alternative to your GP and should be included in your ‘go-to’ list to begin the healing process.

Ultimately, our mental health is an important issue which you must take responsibility to take the first step to seek the outcome you want. Decisions should be made after careful consideration and research… And the conclusions and the course of action you must own. But please, whichever path you choose, make sure you are honest, open, and able to talk freely about what you are feeling.

Have the confidence to be honest and open

Sadly, still many areas of society, having a mental health discussion is still branded with stigma, shame, and misunderstanding. These reasons (and more) can make you extremely uncomfortable to see your doctor and start a conversation. If you are struggling to take the first step and begin a conversation with your Doctor – here is a tip, read other people’s stories, their journeys on how they reached out for help, and how many people were able to overcome their negative emotions, become positive and how ‘talking’ increased their clarity and well-being. Reading about other people’s stories will help you build up your self-confidence to talk bravely and openly.

The setting of achievable goals

Do you want your symptoms and issues to be ‘be gone’ immediately after talking with your Doctor or after seeing a psychologist for the first time and after one counselling session?

If yes, then, you are starting your recovery journey with the wrong mindset. Decide what you want to achieve from this appointment by undertaking some research to see how long it generally takes from diagnoses, staying the course with a treatment plan to achieving your desired outcomes. Reading about actual cases of people who have gone through something similar will help set your mindset and expectations.

When you have realistic expectations and goals, you will better informed and will become more confident to take the first step and how treatment outcomes can be long-lasting.

Make notes

If you have not written down any notes before going to see your doctor, do it. You need to be able to explain everything you are feeling or experiencing very clearly to your doctor. If you hesitate or are not open and truthful, your recovery efforts can be severely impacted and, in some cases, attending counselling sessions could be worthless. Anxiety and depression cannot be diagnosed with vague and incomplete information. If you want this to work, write down everything that you are experiencing and talk it out during the appointment.

You can take some time before the appointment to write down about the things you will be discussing, such as:

  • Your symptoms: this will include behavioural, emotional, mental, and physical changes that you are experiencing.
  • Your medical information such as any health condition and the medications that you might be taking.
  • Your personal information such as any trauma that you faced, any stressful event that occurred.
  • Any questions that you want to ask your doctor.

Follow-up is necessary

It is quite common to feel good about sharing everything with someone. You might then think that you don’t need further assistance, but you can be gravely mistaken having this assumption.

Anxiety and depression symptoms might subside after sharing your emotions, but emotions can ebb and flow and after a short period, you’re not feeling as strong as you thought…

“When in counselling, it’s a normal process to feel OK one day and not the next – so it is important you maintain continuity of care.”

You need to listen to your doctor (and your psychologist). If your doctor has prescribed medication or has given you a referral known as a mental health care plan (MHCP)… you should be prepared for a follow-up appointment or a telephone call within a short period after the initial appointment. Make it your responsibility to be in contact with your doctor regularly.

Due to our present set of circumstances such as COVID and the associated work-life challenges many of us are enduring, you will discover how depression, anxiety, bipolar, and other mental health issues have become common and are spoken about in the media more than ever.

In today’s world, there is no need to hide any mental health issues you could be experiencing any more.

Many of us do not feel like ourselves, but the challenge is to soar and conquer our emotional struggles. Nobody should be ashamed of how and what they are feeling. So, become confident, take the first step, and start the conversation and know that you deserve to rediscover the real you.

About the editor, Beth Andrew

About the editor, Beth Andrew

Beth Andrew, Psychologist Registrar, BA(Psych); Hons (Psych); MPsych (Clinical) is studying to become a clinical psychologist. Beth works with clients who often have a sense of being trapped. Clients who tend to fall into the same unhelpful relationships, who display the same patterns of self-sabotage, isolation, or withdrawal. Beth's therapeutic style is warm and validating and is driven to seek client outcomes by building insight into new ways of forming relationships and responding to life’s problems while learning to let go of old patterns.

Find out more about Beth Andrew

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