Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, one in every five adults had a diagnosable mental health condition. Then the pandemic upended life as we know it, leading to a predictable rise in anxiety, depression, and other concerns. In many ways, life has returned to normal thanks to vaccines and treatments. But transitioning back to your previous way of life isn’t easy. If your mental health isn’t at its best, your primary care doctor can be an incredible resource. But what should you ask when managing mental health?
Below, our resident Medical Director Dr. Naueen Safdar weighs in on the three key questions to ask your doctor regarding your mental health concerns.
What condition do I have?
Primary care doctors are not mental health experts and don’t have access to all the specific tests that a psychologist or psychiatrist can administer. So you may not be able to get a precise diagnosis. But doctors see a lot of patients with common conditions such as depression and anxiety, and they know how to recognize the symptoms. Your doctor should be able to give you a general explanation of what’s causing your troubles and some resources for you to learn more about managing mental health.
You may be tempted to Google your condition when you get home. This can provide some valuable insight, but be careful—even within global categories such as anxiety, there are many different diagnoses. And even people with the same diagnosis can have very different experiences. Make sure you visit only trustworthy websites and avoid self-diagnosing with specific conditions you may or may not have.
What are my treatment options?
Doctors can prescribe medications, but they aren’t the only way to treat mental health concerns. There are numerous types of talk therapy, including hypnosis, behavioral therapy, and much more. If you want to explore your options beyond medication, your doctor will likely give you a rundown of some of the most common treatments, along with a referral to a mental health specialist.
If you decide to pursue treatment with a specialist, keep in mind that the therapeutic relationship is unique. It can take time to find a therapist with whom you genuinely click and then even longer to establish the type of relationship needed for certain types of therapy. Some therapists specialize in brief treatment, which requires just a few sessions and does not need the same depth of therapeutic relationship. So you will want to do further research on your own, even if your doctor offers a referral.
How can managing mental health symptoms work at home?
Most mental health disorders require professional treatment. But there are numerous ways to manage your symptoms while waiting for an appointment with a specialist. Once you are in therapy, your therapist will likely offer additional suggestions based on your unique situation. But your doctor can provide some general tips, such as meditation, yoga, aerobic exercise, dietary changes, and improved sleep hygiene.
Even a mild decline in your mental health can adversely affect your life. If you feel like you are struggling, be sure to mention your symptoms to your doctor. They can provide some general guidance, prescribe appropriate medications, and refer you to a specialist for further treatment. There is no reason to suffer in silence.