There is a certain fear when hearing the word “psychiatrist.” Popular culture has made us believe that the psychiatrist is a somewhat scary professional, a man or woman who prescribes pills that stun us.
Because of this myth, going to the psychiatrist for the first time is seen with great fear, despite being very necessary in many cases. What can we expect in this first session? What is it going to do to us?
With the intention of reducing a little the fear associated with visiting a psychiatrist for the first timebelow we are going to discover what to expect on this first appointment.
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What is it like to go to the psychiatrist’s office for the first time?
It is totally normal to have doubts and feel uncertainty about what your first visit to the psychiatrist will be like.
However, if you have already accepted that you may have a psychological disorder or that you require some type of psychiatric intervention, it is essential that you make an appointment with the specialist. But first of all, it is necessary to know what a psychiatrist does.
Psychiatrists are doctors who are responsible for diagnosing and treating people who are experiencing various problems related to mental health.. All of these problems can include anxiety, depression, psychotic disorders, personality disorders and more, disorders of varying severity, both present in the patient’s family history and not present in the family.
Being doctors, psychiatrists approach mental disorders from a more physiological perspective. Psychiatry’s view of mental health is based on the idea that mental disorders are due to imbalances in the levels of neurotransmitters and other phenomena in the brain, which we want to correct by prescribing drugs or using interventions. medical. Psychiatrists try to balance the brain biochemistry of patients with a mental disorder.
This does not mean that they focus solely on biology. Psychiatrists also take into account psychological variables that may have influenced the appearance and maintenance of the mental disorder and, therefore, they also take into consideration tools to improve these aspects.
Reasons why it would be advisable to see a psychiatrist
On many occasions, people are not aware that we are suffering from mental health problems.. This is because either we have considered them unimportant or, and this is the least desirable part, we have been suffering from them for so long that we have normalized them, considering them normal. However, they are not normal, they are not healthy and we must do something to overcome them.
Some problems that can motivate us to go to a psychiatrist for the first time they are:
- Big changes in our lives that seem overwhelming to us.
- Changes in eating habits: diets, excessive food intake…
- Sleep problems: excess or lack of sleep, problems sleeping, excessive tiredness despite having slept.
- Memory errors.
- Concentration problems.
- Emotional instability.
- Personality changes.
- Neurological problems.
- Problems making decisions.
- Accelerated or very slow thinking.
- Strange ideas, delusional thoughts.
- Obsessions, hallucinations, compulsions and paranoia.
- Development of excessive fear and experience of panic attacks.
- Sexual problems: lack of sexual stimulation, paraphilias or constant need for sex.
- Some cases of addiction.
We may have been aware of these problems for a long time, but in most cases it happens that they are the people around us, such as family and friends, who notice our dysfunctional behavior and care. Our loved ones suffer because they have to deal with situations that we may not realize or consciously do, but that harm them.
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What are the differences between psychiatrists and psychologists?
Although today there is not so much confusion between who are psychiatrists and who are psychologists, it is worth reviewing their main differences. What there is no doubt is that both professionals look after the mental health of their patients, trying to improve their lives by reducing their symptoms and, as far as possible, curing such a disorder.
Psychologists and psychiatrists intervene on their patients in very different ways.. Psychiatrists often prescribe drugs with the intention of changing brain biochemistry by adjusting neurotransmitters believed to be responsible for the manifestation of disorders such as depression or anxiety. Instead, psychologists opt for strategies focused on regulating emotions, changing behaviors, and readjusting the belief system.
The training of psychiatrists and psychologists is also very different. As we have mentioned, psychiatrists are doctors, therefore They have completed a degree in medicine and subsequently specialized in psychiatry. On the other hand, in Spain clinical psychologists studied a degree in psychology and then different situations may have arisen, including studying a master’s degree in clinical psychology or having taken the competitive exam to be a resident internal psychologist (PIR).
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The first visit
There are several situations that can lead us to visit a psychiatrist. Whatever the reason we had to go to one of these specialists, What should be clear is that it is a big step, brave and admirable, since deciding to improve mental health involves making a very overwhelming decision, a big step that, although it generates some uncertainty, in the long run will give us security, well-being and personal growth. It is always admirable to want to improve, no matter what.
Some of the most common situations are that the patient, after a season in which he has had problems at work, studies and his personal relationships, is inundated with questions, doubts about what is happening in his head and why it does not “work.” ” as well as before. Everything in this life has an explanation, and our dysfunctional way of behaving may be due to some problem at the brain level, a problem that must be treated.
Another situation why we end up going to a psychiatrist is because another professional refers us to him. It may happen that we first went to a psychologist with the intention of improving our mental health.. After carrying out the evaluation, the psychologist considers that some of our problems cannot be solved with his training or tools and that, therefore, it is best that we also go to a psychiatrist as complementary treatment.
The first appointment with a psychiatrist consists of an initial evaluation. In it, this doctor will want to get to know us, understand the reasons why we came to his consultation and what difficulties we present. These professionals learn to understand and diagnose very complex disorders but we do not necessarily have to be suffering from one of them, something they understand can happen. That is, psychiatrists understand that not all psychological problems are disorders, although they can use pharmacology to reduce problems that deteriorate the patient’s quality of life.
Normally, appointments with a psychiatrist last between 40 and 60 minutes, but this time can vary greatly in the first session.. This is because, depending on the case, the urgency required to carry out the evaluation and the difficulty it entails, the psychiatrist will use more or less lengthy evaluation and diagnostic tools.
What is the psychiatrist going to ask you?
In the first session the psychiatrist will try to gather as much information as possible about us. It will ask us what problems concern us, and to what extent they are affecting our lives.. He will also ask us what the problem was that made us end up going to his office or if there is another reason that has forced us to be in front of him, such as because we have been referred or our relatives have pressured us.
The professional will ask us about a variety of symptoms, and how we have tried to deal with them. If we have decided to take a medication on our own to reduce the symptoms, it is very important to mention what medications we are taking, how many daily doses we take, the dosage and how long it takes from dose to dose.
It is very important that the psychiatrist knows about any medical problem or condition that we have had. in the past or what we are going through at the moment. It is also important that we mention if we have previously visited other mental health professionals, both other psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, in addition to mentioning if we have resorted to alternative medicine, since some therapies of this type can interfere with the effectiveness of psychiatric treatments.
The psychiatrist will want to know your family’s entire medical history, since it has been seen that there are certain mental disorders and brain diseases that have a high hereditary component and it is common to find several members of the same family presenting the same disorder. Among these mental health problems we find ADHD, bipolar disorder, major depression or Alzheimer’s disease.
How does the psychiatrist make the diagnosis?
Once the psychiatrist has finished collecting all the necessary information in the first session, he will proceed to analyze the results and will try to establish a diagnosis, in addition to seeing what therapeutic route to apply. Depending on the data we have given him, the results of the interview, our behavior and the mental state in which we find ourselves, the psychiatrist may recommend that we consult a particular specialist or undergo laboratory tests to rule out some medical problems.
The professional may schedule other appointments, in anticipation that he or she will be able to solve our mental health problem. It is possible that he or she will suggest psychotherapy, added to the prescription of some medication to relieve symptoms, such as, for example, anxiolytics for anxiety, antidepressants for depressive symptoms or, in the event that we have a psychotic disorder, antipsychotics.
It is very important to attend the rest of the appointments, since the therapeutic power resides in them, not in the first. The first session with the psychiatrist serves to make the diagnosis, which is not always definitive because in the rest of the sessions you can identify symptoms that make you rethink what the real problem is that has harmed our mental stability.
It is essential that in all the sessions we have with the professional we ask the questions that we consider necessary, in addition to informing them of new problems that may have arisen or those that already occurred before the first session but of which we are now aware. All information that we give to the psychiatrist in the rest of the sessions will help him evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment he is applying to us, or if it is necessary to change the therapeutic approach.
Recommendations for the first visit to the psychiatrist
Like all first visits, the first appointment with a psychiatrist can be quite overwhelming. To go a little calmer and feel safe, below we give some recommendations on what to do when going to the psychiatrist for the first time.
- Write a list of the symptoms you have had.
- Write down the names of the medications you take, as well as the doses.
- Bring any medical records that you think might be useful to the psychiatrist.
- Don’t be afraid to ask about the diagnosis and the treatments offered.
- In the first session, the exploration and knowledge of the problem are carried out, no therapy is applied. You must be patient.