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4 min read

How To Bring Up Depression and Anxiety with Your Doctor: Starting Your Mental Health Journey

Key Takeaways:

  • Medical professionals are trained to handle concerns about mental health, whether that means treating it themselves or referring to a specialist.
  • Many people feel awkward about bringing up mental health with their GP because of societal stigma or worry that it will affect their relationship with their doctor.
  • There are a few things you can do to reduce feelings of awkwardness and get the help you need.

Unfortunately, many things often prevent people from seeking the mental healthcare they need: cost, convenience, transportation, and stigma, just to name a few.

But one of the most common reasons why someone might not seek treatment is simple awkwardness: feeling weird about mentioning their mental healthcare needs out loud.

It's a shame, because medical professionals understand that the mind is a complicated organ that can become afflicted with ailments and injuries, just like the body.

There's absolutely no shame in feeling awkward about mental health. We all go at our own pace, and since mental healthcare is one of the more recently developed fields of science, many still struggle to fully understand it.

But if you're looking for some tips on getting over the initial awkwardness, you're in the right place.

Let's go over what your primary care physician can - and can't - do when it comes to mental health, and expand on some tips for bringing up your mental health at your next doctor's appointment.

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Can my doctor diagnose depression or anxiety?

Can my doctor prescribe antidepressant medications?

How To Talk About Mental Health Symptoms with a Doctor

Help for Depression and Anxiety in Austin: Williamsburg Therapy Group

Can my doctor diagnose depression or anxiety?

First things first: what can your doctor actually do about your mental health?

A lot, actually. While it doesn't necessarily have to, much mental healthcare starts with primary care physicians.

This makes sense, since most people have a semi-close relationship with their primary care physician, who has likely been treating them for a number of years.

And because your primary care physician is a medical doctor and likely has had some formal education or training on mental health, most are able to diagnose things like anxiety and depression.

On paper. This varies from doctor-to-doctor, but some physicians won't diagnose mental health conditions, even if they legally could. Sometimes, providing you the best possible care means recusing themselves from medical decisions that they are not fully familiar with or comfortable making.

If a physician hasn't refreshed their expertise on mental health in some time, or simply wants to defer to a specialist, they will likely refer their patients to a therapist or psychiatrist. If this happens, understand that your doctor almost certainly knows this specialist well enough to trust their medical expertise.

Can my doctor prescribe antidepressant medications?

Yes! Physicians are legally able to prescribe antidepressants - so long as your symptoms, history, and existing treatments all point towards antidepressants being a solid medical option for you.

Again, not all physicians are comfortable prescribing mental health medications to their patients. They may prefer, out of an ethical responsibility to operate only within their specialties, to pass you along to a psychiatrist or other physician with more knowledge and experience in mental health.

Some antidepressants that your GP may prescribe include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • GABA inhibitors like gabapentin
  • Benzodiazepines like Xanax

Note that some antidepressants are controlled substances, and your doctor may therefore require more stringent evidence of a true need for said antidepressants.

How To Talk About Mental Health Symptoms with a Doctor

If you're unsure of how to tell your doctor you have anxiety and depression, you're definitely not alone. In a culture where concerns about mental health are often portrayed as weak or "weird", it comes as no surprise that millions of people don't want to bring up their depression or anxiety with anyone.

Here's a quick list of things you can do to make it a little easier to talk to your doctor about mental health:

Definition Template (9)

#1: Bring the paperwork: Family History, Medications, Current Diagnoses

This first step is pure logistics. Once you bring up mental health with your doctor, protocol demands they ask about a family history of mental illness as well as a list of current diagnoses and medications.

Gather this information and put it in a folder to bring to your appointment. Not only does preparation help with nervousness, but it can also make the conversation with your doctor significantly more productive.

#2: Start the conversation: "I have concerns about my mental health."

If you scheduled the appointment specifically for mental health, then you're all set - your doctor will begin the line of questions she or he needs to ask in order to get you the help you need.

If you're there for a check-up and need to bring up mental health, just say something like "I have concerns about my mental health."

Keeping it simple and direct gives your doctor everything they need to start working with you on mental health. Chances are, after you start the conversation this way, your doctor will immediately ask you about your symptoms.

#3: Describe Your Symptoms: Fatigue, Restlessness, A Lack of Interest in Previously Pleasurable Activities

Be honest with your doctor about your symptoms, even if they are awkward to talk about.

If you think you may have depression, your symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • A lack of interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sleeping too much

If you think you may have anxiety, your symptoms may include:

  • Consistent low-level anxiety
  • Extreme anxiety or nervousness in certain situations
  • Panic attacks

Once you describe your symptoms, your doctor will do one of two things:

1.) They will begin analyzing your symptoms, making diagnoses, and suggesting treatments

2.) They will elect to refer you to a specialist

Regardless of what they do, understand that it will be in your medical best interests.

Help for Depression and Anxiety in Austin: Williamsburg Therapy Group

If you think you may have a mental health condition, our team of dedicated and highly experienced therapists is on-hand to diagnose and treat depression and anxiety in Austin.

Whether you're just getting started on your mental health journey or you need to find a new mental health professional after moving to Austin, our patient coordinator is standing by to match you with the right doctoral-level therapist.

Give us a call to get started today. Feeling better might be closer than you think.

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