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Top Tips To Improve Communication With Your Primary Care Physician About Depression

The National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association revealed depressing results about doctor patient communication: in a survey they found that consistent and open communication about treatment for depression and antidepressant side effects simply does not occur often enough-or thoroughly enough-between patients and their primary care doctors. This information is particularly troubling, since the survey also showed that people with depression rely chiefly on their primary care doctors for treatment of their mental illness. This communication gap can result in problems with troublesome and unaddressed side effects, lack of compliance with antidepressant therapy, and failed or delayed recovery for people suffering from depression.

The National DMDA offers the following tips to get you started towards better communication with your doctor:

  1. First, make a list of what you want to discuss with your doctor and take notes. Write down your questions if necessary. Refer to your notes during your appointment so you can remember each issue you want to cover. It's also a good idea to write down the doctor's recommendations and instructions - and confirm what you have heard.

  2. Ask about side effects. If your antidepressant side effects are bothersome, persistent or if your depression is less than completely controlled, you may have other treatment options. . .ASK. Let your doctor know about your concerns and work together to choose a treatment plan that is acceptable to you. Do not skip doses or stop taking your antidepressant without talking to your doctor first!

  3. Work with your doctor to identify "hidden" side effects you might experience. It can be difficult to distinguish certain side effects of antidepressant medication from symptoms of depression itself. For example, weight gain and sexual problems can be caused by either the disease or by antidepressants. Pay close attention to areas where you expected to see improvements that have not occurred, or physical changes that you may not understand.

  4. Discuss the most important or most difficult question(s) first. Help ensure that your doctor understands the importance of your concerns by bringing up your most pressing issues at the beginning of your appointment.

  5. Help your doctor make time for you. If you need more than 10 minutes to discuss your progress or concerns at your next doctor's appointment, let the doctor's office know in advance. Also, if you have a number of questions or if you want to discuss a subject that may be awkward, such as sexual problems, request to begin your appointment in the doctor's office rather than the exam room. You may feel more comfortable discussing these issues if you are dressed.

Created: 3/25/2004  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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