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What To Expect At Your First Psychiatrist Appointment

What To Expect At Your First Psychiatrist Appointment

January 28, 2022


Whether it is over the phone or in person, seeking help for your mental health can be daunting if you do not know what to expect. This article will give you some useful pointers to empower you to work in collaboration with our psychiatrists on starting your journey to recovery.


1.  Come prepared

Before your appointment, it might be useful to take some time to think about the reason for your visit. What symptoms or struggles are impacting you the most? How and when did they start? If possible, keep a diary of your symptoms over a couple of weeks. This is helpful to monitor their frequency, intensity, identify a particular time of day, potential triggers, and things that make you feel better, etc. Sleep patterns, appetite, and weight fluctuations are equally valuable sources of information for your doctor.

It is also useful to gather some details about your childhood from your family, including your birth, your developmental milestones (at what age did you start walking, talking, etc.), your behavior as a child and how you did in school. Ask your relatives if there is a history of mental illness in your family – this may be a sensitive subject but can be relevant as you might be more susceptible to certain conditions.

If you have been referred by another healthcare provider, bring your consultation letters including previous diagnoses, treatments, and medications you have been on. Make sure to bring hospital discharge letters if you had previous admissions or inpatient treatment.


2.  What you are likely to talk about
If this is your first contact with a psychiatrist, the appointment is likely to take about an hour.

At first, your healthcare provider may give you the opportunity to talk freely about your presenting complaint. After that, you will be asked a series of more detailed questions on your childhood, education, family, current situation, medical history, etc. They might ask you questions on some of the more intimate aspects of your life, including relationships, sexuality, illicit drugs, or if you ever had trouble with the law. This enables your psychiatrist to make a 360° assessment of your mental health and how it affects you in your daily life. If you feel uncomfortable answering certain questions, do not hesitate to let your doctor know. Do not forget that professionals are bound by confidentiality and none of the information you disclose will be shared with your relatives or the authorities.

Depending on the reason for your visit, they might ask very detailed questions about treatments and therapies you have already tried, including over the counter and herbal or non-conventional treatments – did they help? What side effects did you suffer from? Why did you stop? This will allow your doctor to tailor his approach to give you the best chance of positive outcomes. Finally, give your psychiatrist any information that has not come up in questions, but you believe to be relevant to your circumstances – you know yourself best.


3.  Outcome of your consultation
For someone suffering from debilitating symptoms, getting to put a name on your illness might feel therapeutic. It enables you to give an identity to the enemy you are battling, and to connect with other individuals going through the same journey. However, it is important to understand that your provider might not be able to give you a diagnosis at the time of the first consultation. Many diagnostic criteria rely on temporality, i.e., length of time you have been suffering from symptoms, and sometimes a positive diagnosis can only be made retrospectively, many months down the line. Whilst this might be frustrating, it is paramount not to rush as being given a certain label can have long-lasting consequences in terms of treatment you will be offered or will not qualify for.

However, your psychiatrist might still be able to provide you with a working diagnosis or provisional diagnosis to allow treatment planning whilst waiting for all the diagnostic criteria to be filled.

Coming to the end of your consultation, you will make a plan in conjunction with your psychiatrist about how to go forward. You might be offered a combination of therapy, medication, and other treatments such as TMS or novel agents. Remember you are the main actor of your recovery, and the decision on what treatment modality you believe will suit your circumstances is ultimately yours, guided by the advice of your psychiatrist. They will explain in detail the modalities, side effects, and evidence behind every option, to allow you to make an informed decision. You might wish to take more time to read through patient leaflets, do your own research, or talk about it with your next of kin. Other things to discuss are the frequency of follow-ups and monitoring and making a contingency plan for you to refer to in case your mental health deteriorates, such as urgent helplines and contact numbers.


If you have further questions about scheduling with a psychiatrist, another mental health provider, or how to best prepare for your appointment, give us a call at 512-777-2591 and we would be happy to assist you.


3 Nutrition Resolutions to Support Better Mental Health

3 Nutrition Resolutions to Support Better Mental Health

January 20, 2022

It’s a new year and, with the new year, many of us have made goals about how we want to change and better our lives. One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is improving physical health: losing weight, gaining muscle, better sleep patterns, better diet, etc. At Heading, we know that mental health is just as important, and even beyond that, that your mental wellbeing and physical health are completely interlinked. We want to make it easy for you to keep your mental health in mind alongside your physical health, and so we asked our on-staff dietician, Sally Twellman, to write three simple tips for you about how you can improve your mental health AND physical health through your diet.


1. Increase your fiber intake

While fiber is not usually viewed as “sexy,” it is so crucial to good physical and mental health. Fiber is the cellulose and fibrous material that makes up the plant foods that we eat, and it’s important because this is what our GI bacteria eat. Without this fibrous food, our little bacteria friends will starve, causing some of these beneficial colonies to die off or, in some cases, even begin to eat the cell lining of our GI tract, leading to “leaky gut” syndrome.

You may be thinking “Okay, but what does this have to do with mental health”? Great question! First, the microbiota (a fancy name for the bacteria that live in your gut) produces up to 90% of the serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that stabilizes our mood. Second, they help break down our food and extract the important vitamins and minerals that are the building blocks for cells, hormones, and enzymes needed throughout the body to make everything work correctly. Finally, one of the most essential functions of these little bacteria is to communicate with the immune and nervous system cells that live within our GI tract, sending signals about our external environment and our internal balance. If our good bacteria are malnourished and sluggish, the only bacteria sending signals are the interloping “bad” bacteria which send our immune and nervous system incorrect signals, and that’s when things go haywire. Of course, when your immune and nervous systems are offline, your mood is highly impacted, along with many other systems in your body.

The good news is that getting enough fiber is simple- just eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains throughout your day. It is recommended that women get 21-25grams of fiber/ day and men should get 30-38 grams/day. To put that into perspective, that is 5-9 small servings of fruits and vegetables vitamin-packed whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice. Remember, veggies and whole grains are packed full of a lot of the vitamins and minerals you need to build and maintain your cells, including your hormones and neurotransmitters. This means that you will be improving your mind function alongside your physical health!

Bonus Tip:
Adding a Probiotic and fermented foods to your diet can help to strengthen the good bacteria population in your gut!


2. Increase your Omega 3 Fatty Acid Intake
Omega 3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, are used to manage inflammation throughout the body. As part of this ability, they are uniquely equipped to pass through the blood-brain barrier to support brain health and mood. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish like mackerel, herring, sardines, and salmon, along with vegetarian foods such as flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and blue-green algae. Getting a variety of these foods each week will help you meet and exceed your health goals.

If you’re having a tough time getting enough Omega 3s in your diet, you can also add an Omega 3 supplement.


3. Eat lots of Green Leafy Vegetables
Even though they are third in this list, green leafy vegetables don’t come in last place when it comes to healthy food. While they may seem ordinary and commonplace, leafy greens are nutritional rock-stars, chock-full of the nutrients your body needs to support good mental health. Leafy greens are high in B vitamins, especially B6 and folate, which help support the well-being of our neurotransmitters. They are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, iron, and phytonutrients, a plant nutrient which powerfully controls inflammation and supports detoxification. Lastly, green leafy vegetables are high in fiber (remember fiber?) to support your GI bacteria! So, when you are picking your servings of fruits, vegetables, and grains, remember to incorporate some spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts- no extra work needed!

While we’ve only talked about three steps to help you meet your goals today, there are many things you can add to your diet that will help support your mental and physical health. If you have tips of your own, we would love to hear them! You can message us or comment on our social media pages to share, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed starting your mental health journey, you can schedule an appointment with Sally or with one of our other providers by giving us a call at 512-777-2591 or visit headinghealth.com.