Consult a doctor

Male doctor

Family doctors can:

  • Evaluate your symptoms.
  • Consider other possible causes for symptoms (the recent death of a loved one, a thyroid gland that isn’t working properly, etc.)
  • Discuss lifestyle changes and treatment options.
  • Provide ongoing check-ins, and brief support and advice.
  • Prescribe medication, when appropriate.
  • Provide access to other resources including psychiatrists, community services, and outpatient clinics.

Consulting with a family doctor is free and confidential.

Watch David’s Tips from a Professional Video, Consulting a Doctor and Josh’s Tip Video, Talking with a Doctor.

Getting Started

Depression is one of the most common reasons for consulting with a family doctor. Yet, for some guys, unfounded beliefs and assumptions can hold them back from connecting with a family doctor for depression.

You don’t think depression is worth talking about

Depression is a serious illness – it can make your life miserable if it’s not addressed properly. When you break your arm, you go to the doctor. If you have pain, you go to the doctor. If you think you may have depression, you go to the doctor. That’s how simple it should be.

You think your doctor only wants to prescribe medication

Medication isn’t the only treatment for depression, nor in many cases should it be the first. Your doctor can give you lots of advice about lifestyle changes and different treatment options that include talk therapy and/or medications.

You’re worried about privacy

Talking to your doctor is confidential. Your information will not be shared with anyone without your consent (including your employer, insurance companies, spouses or family members). You can also request a copy of your medical records at any time.

You don’t think a doctor can help

Family doctors have a lot of training, knowledge, and expertise. A good working relationship with a family doctor may be enough to help you get through depression, or they can help get you connected with other services if you need them.  Family doctors serve on the frontlines of the health care system – they’ve seen it all.

You fear your doctor will tell you to ‘suck it up’

This may be the first time you’ve discussed depression with someone else but it won’t be the first time your doctor has worked with somebody with depression. They know how hard depression is and the effort it takes to speak up about it. In the unlikely event that you feel like your family doctor isn’t taking your concerns seriously, you can always consult another doctor.

Steps to take

Going to see a family doctor is the first step most guys take toward getting better. You and your doctor share a common goal: to get you feeling like yourself again.

Schedule an appointment
Prep for the meeting
What to say during your appointment
Schedule an appointment

You might have to miss work, school, or something else, but making time to discuss your health with a family doctor is worth the time and effort.  Don’t make excuses about why you can’t see a doctor – your health is your first priority.

Ask for extra time

Doctor’s appointments are usually scheduled for 10 minutes. Ask for extra time when you make the appointment to give yourself a chance to discuss your concerns thoroughly.

What you can say:

  • “Are there any times available for a longer appointment? I need to discuss some issues we haven’t gone over before.”
  • “I have a lot to discuss – are there any 15-20 minutes slots open? This is all for one medical concern.”
Prep for the meeting

If you have the energy for it, preparing for the meeting with your family doctor can be useful for making the most of your time together.

Make notes about symptoms

Give your doctor a complete view of what’s going on – describe any physical, emotional, cognitive, or interpersonal problems that you’re experiencing. Complete our self check, print it out, and bring the results with you.

Write out things that may be difficult to discuss

Sometimes guys get too stressed to remember exactly what they want to say when they meet with their family doctor. Some things are simply hard to talk about. Whether these are personal issues that are affecting your health or thoughts about hurting yourself, sometimes it’s easier to write them down and show your physician.

Think about questions that you’re likely to be asked

Your doctor will ask a variety of questions in order to get a better sense of your symptoms and experiences. Here are some typical questions you may hear:

  • “How long have you felt this way?”
  • “Do you usually feel down like this, or is this something new?”
  • “Does your mood swing back and forth from really down to really high?”
  • “On a scale of 1 to 10, can you rate your mood over the last couple weeks?”
  • “Do you ever have suicidal thoughts?”
  • “Do you drink alcohol or use any drugs?”

Ask a friend or relative to accompany you

If you’re nervous about going to your appointment, don’t feel confident that you can talk about yourself, or are too stressed to remember what to say, you may want to ask a friend or family member to come along with you.  It’s no big deal for your doctor – this is pretty common.

What to say during your appointment

Let your doctor know all that’s going on and work together to figure out the best treatment options. Start out with what’s most important in order to get the most out of your appointment.

Give your doctor the lay of the land

Besides describing your symptoms, tell your doctor if you’re currently under the care of any other healthcare professionals, if you have any other medical issues, what medications or supplements you’re taking, and if your family has any history with mental illness.

Be as specific as possible about how you’re feeling and the impact it’s having on your life.

Here are some examples of what you can say to get the conversation started:

  • “I feel like shit these days – I’m too tired to go to work, I keep going out drinking and calling in sick.”
  • “I can’t sleep at all. I keep lying in bed stressed out about making enough money to support myself.”
  • “I don’t want to see my friends anymore, I’m sick of everyone.”
  • “I’m always grumpy and pissed off, I never seem to be myself anymore.”
  • “Sex isn’t interesting me like it use to and it’s getting harder to perform.”
  • “I’ve been gaining (or losing) lots of weight recently.”

Be honest – even about the stuff that’s hard to talk about

You’ve taken the initiative to get this far, so don’t be embarrassed, downplay, or avoid certain subjects. If anything is too hard to talk about, try writing it down, handing a note to your doctor and sitting with them while they read it. Rest assured – whatever you got going on, your doctor has heard it before.

What you can say:

  • “I have been having thoughts about hurting myself or taking my life.”
  • “I’m lonely. I’m sick of my family, there’s no one I care about.”
  • “I haven’t been the same since my last relationship ended, I have no confidence left.”
  • “I’ve been drinking a lot lately. I drove home drunk last week.”

Ask lots of questions

Make sure you understand everything you talk about. Ask questions, and don’t be embarrassed if you have to ask more than once; depression can make it very difficult to think clearly.

What you can say:

  • “What do you think is causing me to feel like this?”
  • “What treatment options or services do you recommend for me?”
  • “What can I do about my sleep/appetite/energy levels?”
  • “Do you think I should see a psychiatrist or a therapist?”

Discuss treatment options

It’s important to have a solid understanding of all treatment options available to you – why you’re doing them, how they work, and the time frame for their effectiveness.

What you can say:

  • “What are the pros and cons of this treatment?”
  • “How long will it take till I notice if it’s working?”
  • “Will there be any side effects or other consequences?”
  • “What should I do if I don’t think it’s working?”
  • “Is there anything I should avoid doing with this treatment?”
  • “Can you treat me or can you recommend any services or other professionals?”

Ask you doctor about other resources and connecting with professionals in your community.

Double-check before leaving

Before you leave the office, do a quick recap to clarify your understanding of the situation.

  • Explain in your own words what’s going on and what steps you will be taking to get better.
  • Make sure you and your doctor are on the same page for monitoring how you are doing with follow up appointments and how often you need them.
  • If you are having trouble remembering anything, write it down.

After your appointment

Take ownership of your health

Only you are responsible for your health.  While you can work with a variety of health professionals to assist you along the way, you are in the driver’s seat on your road to recovery.  Don’t expect others to be responsible for you getting better.

Establish a good working relationship

It’s important to develop a good working relationship with your doctor.  This takes time and effort, and there might be hiccups along the way, but this relationship is one of the pillars that your recovery will stand on.

Follow through with referrals

Depending on your doctor’s experience, your symptoms, and the resources available in your area, your doctor may suggest reaching out to additional supports. These may include community services or getting you on wait-lists for an outpatient clinic or psychiatrist.

Don’t let wait-lists slow you down

If you find yourself on a wait-list for a psychiatrist or other services, you can still use this time to treat your depression. Your family doctor can likely give you a lot of guidance about other things that might be helpful in your fight against depression.  Check out our practical tips for things that you can do on your own.

Be persistent and advocate for yourself

If the first or second thing you try doesn’t work as well as you hoped, ask your doctor about other options. Treating depression can be tricky and it often takes a couple tries to figure out what treatment options work best for you.