Saying that everything flows from the consultation may seem overstated, but when treating major depression, this is frequently the case.
From the doctor’s point of view, psychiatric consultation is essential to gathering as much information as possible to diagnose the issue, choose the most effective course of action, and describe what you anticipate experiencing and when throughout therapy.
However, if someone overhears our initial interaction with a new patient, it might seem like we were just chit-chatting—”How are you feeling?”—in a casual setting. For how long have you been experiencing this? Has anyone in your family experienced a situation like this?
But when I ask them these questions, I’m not just chit-chatting. I’m utilizing a tried-and-true diagnostic technique taught to us in medical school that is as laser-focused as an X-ray, blood pressure monitor, stethoscope, or any other screening tool used in healthcare.
The term S.O.A.P, subjective, objective, assessment, and plan, is frequently used in the medical field to refer to this information-gathering method.
There are four steps in the S.O.A.P. process:
1. Personal: You, the Expert
You hold the key to the consultation. The person who knows how you feel best is you, the patient. Your diagnosis is what will ultimately contain the answers to the medical enigma. Your doctor will be able to diagnose you more quickly the more information you offer about your symptoms, how they affect your life, and your family, medical, and prescription histories.
While some patients enter my office eager to express their emotions, others are more reserved and require prompting. I like to do my research, but the doctor’s office you visit might demand that patients complete medical, medication, and family history paperwork before seeing the doctor.
Whatever consultation format your healthcare provider employs, be sure to be ready and bring to your visit notes on what has been hurting you and any recent test results, so your doctor has the information required to make an accurate diagnosis.
Sleep is disturbed, memory loss rises, anxiety levels rise, and thinking becomes foggy due to depression. You can ensure that you address all of your concerns during your appointment and be able to go back and read the doctor’s suggestions later on by writing down your symptoms and questions before your visit and taking notes while you’re there.
2. The doctor serving as an observer
When you enter your doctor’s office, log into a telemedicine appointment, or make an appointment over the phone, the objective portion of the psychiatric consultation starts. There is so much to be learned by simply paying attention to someone’s voice, appearance, and body.
Voice inflection, posture, demeanor, attitude, hygiene, grooming, emotional expression, speech pacing and patterns, lack of eye contact, and thought patterns are all indicators of someone’s mental condition.
Another vital characteristic to watch for is a patient’s capacity for judgment, insight into their state, and empathy for others (which typically declines significantly in depression and may hardly exist in schizophrenia). The doctor must intervene and may call a family member or take other action if the patient expresses thoughts of suicide or intends to hurt others.
Your doctor may also request the results of your blood tests and physical examination, as lab results and screenings can affect the recommended course of therapy.
3. Evaluation: Depression Diagnosis
Once your healthcare provider has gathered all the data, an evaluation is required. People who are given a depression diagnosis are frequently taken aback. The truth is that an illness with so many different and seemingly unconnected symptoms is mislabeled as depression.
Anxiety and depression are related, and many depressed persons may notice that their mood is more anxious than depressed. Depression also has a significant cognitive component. Ruminating thoughts make it difficult to focus and concentrate. Problem-solving that is constructive suffers. Making decisions can be challenging.
More frequently, negativity seems to be more pronounced than melancholy or impatience. There is no place to believe that relief is attainable when one is consumed with obsessive thoughts, fears, anxieties, and regrets.
4. Plan: Outlining the Recovery Path
Gaining a satisfactory treatment outcome may be significantly aided by being ready for the path to recovery. Depression can cause anxiety, so knowing what to anticipate and when to keep your cool is essential. Unfortunately, many people quit taking their medication before it starts to take effect because they begin to panic if their treatment doesn’t start working immediately.
Anxiety is reduced when a treatment plan is carefully and reassuringly spelled out. After a psychiatric appointment, you should feel that you are starting a journey with clear instructions, ready for any signs and detours you may come across, and sure that you will arrive at your destination.