If you’re depressed, it’s time to seek treatment, but do you know what to do? Finding help can be a confusing process, not least of all because there are two types of doctors you can see. What’s the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist? How do you prepare for your first appointment? Follow these tips to find the best help for your situation.
How to Choose a Doctor
Psychologists and psychiatrists vary in specific ways. A clinical psychologist has received a Masters or Ph.D. degree in psychology by studying mental illness in graduate school rather than a medical college. They’re trained to use psychological testing and the manual of mental health disorders to determine your illness, then use behavioral therapy to help you combat any issues you may have. This makes them a great first defense for mild to moderate depression and other minor disorders. In some states, psychologists are also allowed to prescribe certain medications making them an excellent resource.
Psychiatrists go to medical school where they learn about the body’s many systems and treatment plans for a variety of medical issues. They have a more medical approach to mental illness using CT scans and chemistry testing in addition to basing diagnoses on the manual of mental health disorders. They can figure out if your symptoms come from other medical problems or side-effects from a drug you’re taking, which isn’t something a psychologist will look at. If you’re concerned that your sadness may have a medical basis, a psychiatrist should be your first stop. They’re also great for those who are extremely depressed – you can’t sleep; you won’t eat; you have anxiety attacks. A psychiatrist can help prescribe medications that will alleviate the symptoms while you work on healing the illness.
How to Prepare for Your First Appointment
There are two ways you can prepare for your first appointment with a psychiatric doctor. The first is to keep a journal of your feelings and symptoms. Also, write down medications you took, any mood-altering events and how much sleep you’re getting at night. This will help you and your doctor determine any patterns that affect your mood.
Next, write down any questions you want your new doctor to answer. You can ask a psychologist what approach they plan on using to alleviate your symptoms, how much each session costs or how often you’ll meet and for how long. Psychiatrists can be asked the same questions, plus what medications they may prescribe, what side-effects to look out for, whether it will interact with anything you currently take and how quickly you can expect a new medication to do its job.
If you think your perpetual sadness is mental illness, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Being depressed for weeks at a time isn’t normal. These tips will help you decide which type of doctor to see and how to make the most of your first visit so you can heal.