What to Expect From Your Medical Provider

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You have an appointment to see your doctor. You're tired all the time, achy, can't sleep, and you can’t concentrate on anything. You've lost ten pounds without even trying. What is your doctor going to be looking for?

Most of us don't go to see our doctor unless there is something wrong, or unless it is time for a physical. If we have a fever, or a broken leg or something else that can easily be observed and measured, our physician knows just what to do. When the symptoms are vague - general malaise, some achiness, trouble sleeping - it is a little more challenging.

Care by Physician

You should expect your physician to examine you, ask you questions, and perhaps send you for blood tests or other tests. As a physician, it is her job to rule out physical causes first for the discomfort that you are feeling.

That is a good thing. So many symptoms of depression are also symptoms of other diseases and disorders. Anemia, as an example, can cause one to feel lethargic. Loss or gain of weight can come from a number of different disorders, including thyroid disorders. Sleeplessness can be its own disorder, or can be associated with sleep apnea.

Once your physician is satisfied that the cause of your symptoms is not physical, your doctor might then entertain the idea of depression or anxiety. She might prescribe a mild antidepressant or antianxiety medication.

Many physicians can successfully manage prescription treatment of depression and anxiety. They are not, however, specialists. Moreover, they are not generally qualified to provide any form of "talk therapy" or psychotherapy. For all of this you should get a referral to a psychologist, psychotherapist or psychiatrist.

Care by Psychiatric Professionals

Psychiatrists, or those acting under their guidance, like psychiatric nurse practitioners, are qualified to prescribe medication for the treatment of psychiatric disorders of all kinds. Many of them also provide counseling and therapy.

Therapy may also be available from psychologists, social workers and counselors.

How to Choose a Provider

If your physician or insurance company cannot refer you to the appropriate care provider, consider contacting an organization like the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI) who can make referrals in your area.

Always make certain your care provider is licensed to provide what you need. Too often providers of therapy advertise themselves as counselors, but lack any training or credentials. If you are in doubt about the qualifications of your provider, ask to see their credentials.

Not every therapist will be a good fit. Some specialize in certain areas, like addiction or abuse. For others, you might simply not feel a rapport with the person you are talking to. It is important that you feel as comfortable and relaxed with your therapist as possible, to make it easier for you to open up and discuss your issues.

Don't hesitate to try the services of several therapists until you find the one you are comfortable talking to.

Sources: PubMed Health: National Library of Medicine and WebMD.com
Image Courtesy: Bill Branson, nci

 
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