FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q. How do I decide if I should see a psychiatrist?
Consider seeking help if you’re experiencing persisting sadness or anxiety for more than a week or so. If you’re having thoughts about ending your life, or panic attacks are occurring, you should definitely seek help. Depression and severe anxiety are conditions that are usually quite treatable-- relief is possible.
Q. When would I want to call a psychiatrist instead of another type of therapist?
Some problems involve improving relationships, increasing confidence, getting past a specific fear, etc. Often a competent therapist (eg, Marriage and Family Therapist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, or Clinical Psychologist) will be able to help you through the difficulty. A psychiatrist might be considered if the treatment is not going as expected. Sometimes underlying depression or anxiety or other conditions may be preventing you from making progress. Sometimes psychotherapists will refer their clients for consultation because the depression or anxiety condition is preventing the person from benefiting from the treatment.
Q. I’ve been feeling very depressed, but I know what the problem is that’s causing me stress. Is there any point to consider evaluation for medication?
Sometimes a patient will say to me that there’s no point to taking medication, because he/she knows why he/she depressed. What may not be recognized is that a stress in life can set up the conditions to trigger a depressive (or anxiety related) condition. Once the condition is addressed, the initial problem may be more easily dealt with.
Q. I’m already working with a therapist, should I consider an evaluation?
It would make sense to discuss this question directly with your therapist. When I am providing psychotherapy to a patient (not taking medications) I will not suggest adding medication treatment unless it seems to me the patient isn’t making progress as fast as I would expect.
Q. Should I look for a male or a female psychiatrist?
There are times when a person may prefer a therapist of a specific sex. There is nothing wrong with going with your preference. Much of the time, though, it is most important that a patient feel comfortable, safe, and respected by the doctor/therapist, regardless of gender. In the final analysis, the qualities of the doctor/therapist will usually prove to make more difference than whether the therapist is a he or a she.
Q. My primary care physician gave me an antidepressant and I don’t feel much better. Is there any point in seeing a psychiatrist?
Nowadays, antidepressants and other psychiatrically active medications are prescribed by doctors many types of doctors, including Family Practice and Internal Medicine physicians. This may work out just fine for a patient, but there are also times in medicine (and psychiatry) that a specialist can help a person when the generalist can’t. It is also sometimes true that those patients with more serious psychiatric conditions (e.g., Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder) are more comfortable treated in a psychiatric practice.
Q. What can be done to help me with problems related to my Autism or Asperger’s disorder, etc.?
There has been an increasing recognition over the last several years that conditions on “the Spectrum” (i.e, Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder, NOS) are fairly common. Current prevalence estimates are in the range of 1 in 100 people. There are many programs becoming available for very young children to identify and treat Autism Spectrum Disorders. What is now also becoming recognized is that there are many adolescents and adults who may have never been formally diagnosed with these conditions, but who have symptoms/problems related Autism or Asperger’s Disorder. Even for adults and adolescents, there are often treatments that can help substantially alleviate symptoms such as obsessive thoughts, anxiety, depression, or anger outbursts. It can be helpful to a person with traits related to the Autistic Spectrum to be treated by a professional who recognizes these traits and who can offer effective treatments.
Q. I think antidepressants might help me; is there any chance I’ll get dependent on them?
Understanding the addictive potential of medications is important for a psychiatrist when treating anxiety, depressive, or other psychiatric conditions. When tranquilizers or sleeping agents are utilized, it is quite important to be mindful of the risk of a patient developing dependence. In the case of antidepressants (such as Zoloft, Prozac, Lexapro and others) these medications have very little, if any, risk of dependence. It is important, though, to understand how to come off of these medications, because there can be significant discomfort if they are abruptly discontinued.
Q. My doctor has recommended that I take an antidepressant, but I don’t have depression, I have anxiety. Why is this the treatment he/she wants me to use?
SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are often the first choice for treatment of depression, and they have subsequently been (inaccurately) called “antidepressants”. This group of medications is actually used to treat a number of conditions, including depression, anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and Bulimia. A medication from this class is the first-line choice for the treatment of an anxiety condition, whether or not there were also depressive symptoms.