Talking to Your Doctor About Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with post-traumatic stress disorder. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.
Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:
- Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
- Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
- Write down the answers you get, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
- Don't be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.
Talk to your doctor about the traumatic event and your feelings. Describe any scary memories, depression, trouble sleeping, or anger. Let them know if these problems keep you from doing everyday things and living your life.
In addition, you may want to ask the following questions:
- Could I possibly have some other illness?
- Can I have a physical exam to be sure?
- Have you helped people with PTSD?
- If not, can you refer me to a doctor or counselor who has experience treating PTSD?
- What treatment options are available to me?
If you are prescribed medicine:
- How long will it take to work?
- What are the benefits
- What are the side effects?
If you decide to try counseling, interview counselors and find one with whom you feel comfortable discussing your problems. Questions to ask the counselor include:
- What is your training and experience in treating PTSD?
- What is your basic approach to treatment?
- How long will treatment last?
- What is the length and frequency of treatment sessions?
- Which health insurance do you accept?
- Do you have fee schedules and sliding scale fees to accommodate various financial circumstances?
What lifestyle changes, if any, can help reduce my symptoms? For example:
- Relaxation and stress management techniques
- Limit use of alcohol and drugs
- What are my chances of recovery from PTSD?
- What is the likelihood of recurrence of PTSD and/or related conditions? What can I do about it?
- Can you recommend a support group for me?
National Institute of Mental Health
website. Available at:
Anxiety Disorders Association of America website. Available at:
Last reviewed November 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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