How to Talk to Your Doctor About Anxiety & Depression
You want to talk to your doctor about the way you feel, but struggle to find the words to describe it. It’s easy to walk into the doctor’s office and show them an ailment or describe physical pain in your body. Speaking about the feelings that present with anxiety or depression sometimes seems more challenging. Impossible, perhaps to put the feelings into words, and knowing how to talk to your doctor about anxiety and depression is difficult.
Even harder than putting the feeling into words is taking the first step away from self-blame. So many things you want to do, a long list of wishes you can’t fulfil, and every day you blame yourself. Your lack of motivation, discipline, inability to ‘just get over it’. Depression and anxiety are different problems with overlapping symptoms. You do not need to know which is more relevant to you before you speak with your doctor.
In England, support for mental health does not meet the needs of the people. Unfortunately, the answer is often medication, hopefully a few sessions of therapy, but little more. This is not sufficient, and if you have the resources, seeking private or charitable support will help you greatly. My blog post here will give you a brief insight into medication for mental health, so you can begin your research. I have the privilege of hearing people’s stories. Some lucky people get incredible support from their GP. When you book your first appointment, ask to speak with the doctor most experienced with mental health. If you feel your GP doesn’t address your concerns fully, you have the right to ask for another appointment with a different doctor.
What Might Happen
Your doctor will ask you some questions to help them understand the depth of your feelings. There are specific questionnaires for this. I use the GAD-7 and PHQ-9 tests with my clients. The GAD-7 questionnaire is a seven question, multiple choice form, which gives insight into whether your symptoms are typical of anxiety and if so, the severity of it. The PHQ-9 questionnaire is similar, a 9 question, multiple choice poll that explores the typical symptoms of depression. The NHS website has the tests combined, with two added questions here. Although these tests may help you feel more comfortable speaking with your doctor, do not consider them fool proof. If your score does not correlate with your feelings and you think you need help, please still ask for help.
When your doctor has a thorough insight into the way you feel, they will look to refer you for some therapy and / or prescribe medication. Your doctor might have information on local charities that will offer support free of charge. If they do not, your own research might lead you to wonderful places. For example, the Mary Frances Trust in Surrey is a lifeline for some people.
There are instances where you may experience depressive episodes with no previous experiences of depression. For example, postpartum depression. If you’re considering how to talk to your doctor about postpartum depression, they will help with this too. Your midwife should ask you a series of questions before they sign you off. However, postpartum depression can rear its head up to a year after giving birth. If you still have the contact details for your midwife and feel more comfortable approaching him / her first, this is also ok. They will guide you in the best direction with a good knowledge of what to do in your situation. Your health visitor is another good point of contact for some people.
Mental health is a subject that many people find difficult to speak about, less so in the younger generations, as it becomes more common conversation. However, for millennials and older, there is a stigma attached to mental health. Many people spend their days campaigning to change this, and change is happening. As a result, lots of us tell everyone else its ok to speak about their feelings. However, it does not always change what we feel inside of us when wanting to talk about our own mental health. Although talking about your mental health feels difficult for you, you can almost guarantee it’s a conversation your doctor has multiple times a day, so I urge you to take a deep breath and make the call.