If you’ve never seen a psychiatrist before, you may have some questions about what will happen during your first appointment.  Chances are, you’ve already guessed that your psychiatrist will need to know some things about you in order to provide you with a personalized treatment plan. When you visit a psychiatrist, the more honest you can be about your concerns, your history, and the symptoms that have brought you in, the more effective your treatment will be. Here’s a brief list of questions your psychiatrist might ask during your first appointment.  


What brings you in today?

Maybe you’re having trouble sleeping, or you’re struggling with addiction. Whatever it is, the psychiatrist will want to know as much as you are willing to share. Although you may feel a little hesitant to open up so soon in your relationship, it’s important not to downplay or dismiss any of your symptoms or concerns. The details you provide will help your psychiatrist diagnose and treat you effectively.


When did you first notice your symptoms?

Many people who seek the help of a psychiatrist do so because they have concerns about their mental health. Maybe you have sudden panic attacks or bouts of uncontrollable anger. Some symptoms may seem like you’ve always had them forever, and others may seem to have come on suddenly out of nowhere. A psychiatrist is trained to see the big picture and to look for potential causes or patterns that may be associated with the onset of a mental disorder. They may be able to make connections that you haven’t seen. If you give some thought to this question before your appointment, your answers will help ensure an accurate diagnosis.


What have you tried so far?

The human brain is complex, and there is no single formula for achieving mental wellness. Most people who visit a psychiatrist do so after having attempted to manage their symptoms or make changes on their own. This will be different for everyone. One person who has trouble regulating their emotions may have tried making simple changes to their diet and exercise routine, while another person with similar symptoms may have tried talk therapy, meditation, herbal remedies, and other therapeutic techniques. If you can provide your psychiatrist with a list of things you have tried, it will help give them a better idea of where to begin with your treatment plan. 



Does anyone in your family have a psychiatric history?

Studies have shown that genetics play a role in the majority of mental health disorders. Knowing your family history may be able to help your psychiatrist understand more about your symptoms. Of course, not everyone with a mental disorder receives a diagnosis, so even if you can remember a cousin who was afraid to leave her house or a relative who had a drinking problem, the information may be helpful to your psychiatrist even without a formal diagnosis. 

These are just a few of the questions your psychiatrist will ask you. Additional information they’ll be looking for includes your medical history, your family environment, your current lifestyle and general patterns of sleep.  You can expect to spend at least an hour at your first appointment. 

Sharing the details of your life and your symptoms may feel uncomfortable, and strong emotions may arise during your appointment. This is perfectly normal. As mental health professionals, psychiatrists appreciate the expression of emotion, so you can feel safe to cry and express your feelings if you need to.  It is also appropriate to let your psychiatrist know if you’re not ready to discuss certain details.  

The psychiatrist-patient relationship is an important one. If you don’t feel safe and comfortable, then ask around for another referral. Not every psychiatrist will be a good fit for every person, and it’s important to find one with whom you feel a sense of trust and compatibility.


Looking for a psychiatrist in San Diego? We can help.

At Pacific Health Systems, we believe in a holistic approach to psychiatry. Our psychiatrists are highly skilled and compassionate doctors who are committed to helping patients live their best lives. They will work closely with your primary care doctor and other members of your care team to ensure that you receive an accurate diagnosis as well as a personalized treatment plan designed to optimize your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.  For more information on our psychiatry services in San Diego or to schedule an appointment, give us a call at 619-267-9257 today.