Living With ADHD: Building a Better Relationship With Your Doctor
ADHD is a medical diagnosis and living with ADHD means regular doctor visits. At one time, that meant following your doctor’s orders without asking too many questions. But the relationship between patient and doctor has changed over the years. Today, patients are more educated and have access to more information than ever before. Patients rely on their doctor to know and understand their health history, symptoms, and treatment options. Doctors rely on patients to share information on symptoms and how they affect day-to-day life.
The relationship is built on mutual trust and respect and contributes to the patient's health and well-being. A study published in 2014 found that a good doctor-patient relationship improved health outcomes.
Your doctor goes through a process during each appointment. Nurses or physician assistants often start the process, finding out your weight, blood pressure, pulse, and other basic information. They might ask you about current symptoms and any problems you are experiencing. The doctor reviews this information and talks to you in depth about what is going on, any struggles you are having, and how you are reacting to medication or other treatment. Your doctor might discuss how your ADHD symptoms and treatment fit with your lifestyle and values.
Your doctor plays a large role in your health care, but so do you. To do your part, you need to have a plan.
Know your medical history
Your medical history includes health conditions for you and your family. If you have been seeing the same doctor for a while, they probably have a record of most of your medical history, but you need to keep the doctor updated as things change — for example, a parent's’s recent heart attack or a sibling's diagnosis of diabetes. If you are seeing a new doctor, provide an accurate health history, including any medical conditions or surgeries you have had as well as medical conditions that have affected your family.
Prepare for your appointment
Before your appointment, make a list of symptoms and concerns. List prescription and non-prescription medication you are taking, results of lab tests, and updates to your medical history. Keep a notebook with you to update at each appointment. Prioritize questions to make sure you ask those that are most important. If necessary, leave your list of questions with your doctor and ask that he email or call you with answers to any you don't have time to discuss.
Don't try to sugar coat your past or current health information Some people are ashamed of certain conditions or behaviors. For example, you might not want to admit you smoke or drink. You might not want to share your sexual history. But all of these contribute to your health history. It's important to provide complete and accurate information so your doctor can see the benefits and risks of certain treatments.
Be honest about your beliefs
Your doctor can't help you if you don't plan to follow through with recommended treatmen. For example, if you are against taking medication to treat your ADHD, you need to let your doctor know so you can discuss alternatives. Don't just agree to treatment because your doctor recommends it and then not follow through. Discuss what you will and will not do so you can both be on the same page.
Discuss ways to communicate
Your doctor's office might have an online patient portal where you can leave a message or an email address where you can send a message. If you are starting a new medication or need to follow up with your doctor, discuss the best way to communicate.
Follow your care plan
Make sure you follow through with your care plan. If you and your doctor decide to change your medication dose, be sure you do and keep notes on how it is working. If you decide to start cognitive behavioral therapy, follow up and keep track of how it is working. Building trust means you trust that your doctor will follow through on his part and you will follow through on yours.
If you don't understand why your doctor is recommending a certain treatment, ask why. If you are starting a new medication, ask about the side effects and what outcomes you can expect. If your doctor orders a laboratory test, ask what he expects to find and why these results matter. The more you understand, the more you can be involved in your own treatment.
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