Have you ever tried to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist as a new patient for yourself or a loved one? Obtaining an appointment within 4 weeks can almost be like winning the lottery. In many towns, cities, and states, there is a shortage of psychiatrists. If you’re in need of a child psychiatrist, the hunt for an appointment may be even grimmer (the cause, reason, and solution is for another day).
During your first time meeting with the psychiatrist, chances are your doctor will have scheduled to see you for about 40-60 minutes, which during this time she/he will ask various questions related to mental health, medical and family history, as well as current concerns related to the appointment. The psychiatrist will ask very precise questions, listen intently, and make many notes. You will leave the office feeling that you’ve found a warm understanding doctor who will see you through this crisis- that is until the subsequent visit(s).
Little will you realize on your next visit (if lucky it will be within 4 weeks, but probably will be greater than a month) your doctor may be running a few minutes late, will be very matter of fact regarding your medication and how it’s working out, and if all is well you may be surprised your psychiatrist will be whisking you out the door within 15 minutes or less (anything more would be due to a crisis, or pure luxury). The reality is the disproportionate need for psychiatric medication appointments vs. # of psychiatrists in town has many psychiatrists seeing 4-5 patients an hour. Every hour. Every day.
Information That Will Help Your Psychiatrist Determine How to Be of Optimal Help
- Your psychiatrist cares how you have been functioning. Often times we may actually feel better leading up to appointments, or even on the day of. How you are doing or feeling today is what your psychiatrist may ask, but what she/he needs to know is: What are your worse days like, how long do these “bad days last,” and how frequent are they.
- Are you experiencing any side effects?
Common side effects that may include: head aches, nausea, difficulty falling asleep, sleeping too much, changes in appetite and or weight gain/loss, and sexual side effects.
More alarming side effects include: racing thoughts, suicidal thoughts, changes in perception, racing heart, twitching, tremors, muscle spasms, or involuntary movements, and feeling “too good” or feeling worse.
- Your psychiatrist knows how the medication should help you, but until you actually take the medication for a week or two, it is unknown how your body will respond to the medication, or whether or not you will experience any of the side effects or ultimately if this is the right medication for you. Your psychiatrist will also want to know if you are taking medication as directed on the bottle. Sometimes our expectations as patients is that similar to an ibuprofen, if we take it, we should feel better shortly thereafter. In reality, some psychiatric medications could take up to 2-3 weeks of taking it daily before you begin to notice changes. Be patient and continue to take as directed, unless you are experiencing alarming side effects- then stop and contact your psychiatrist ASAP.
- If you have found that your medications have been helpful, and have been feeling and doing better, do you think the medication can work even more effectively? Once a medication with minimal to no side effects is found, the goal is to “fine tune” the dosage for optimal effectiveness.
It can be intimidating to meet with the psychiatrist, but in many ways you as the patient, are very much like a consumer, and it is the psychiatrist’s role to listen and to make sure that you are leaving the office with hope and confidence in your medication. Similarly it is your role to advocate for yourself, or bring someone who can verbalize your needs, or have some written notes about your concerns, observations, and experiences.
Having an effective and positive experience at your appointments with your psychiatrist will only expedite the process to functioning better.
Photo Credit: The Clinical Psychologist’s Bookshelf, Mental Health Humor