What does a psychiatrist ask you?

When meeting with a psychiatrist for the first time, there are a number of common questions you can expect them to ask you. The psychiatrist will inquire about your symptoms, medical history, family history, social history, and more to gain insight into your mental health concerns.

Questions about Symptoms

The psychiatrist will likely begin by asking you about the specific symptoms that led you to seek treatment. This gives them an understanding of what issues you are facing on a day-to-day basis. Some examples of symptom-related questions a psychiatrist may ask include:

  • What symptoms or problems brought you in today?
  • When did you first start noticing these symptoms?
  • How have these symptoms impacted your daily life and ability to function?
  • How have the symptoms changed over time? Have they gotten better, worse, or stayed the same?
  • What seems to improve the symptoms? What makes them worse?

Getting details about your symptoms helps the psychiatrist determine if you may have a mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or something else. They will also assess the severity of the symptoms.

Questions about Mood

Mood-related questions will also likely come up during the initial psychiatric assessment. These include:

  • How would you describe your current mood? For example, happy, sad, irritable, anxious, apathetic, etc.
  • Have there been any recent changes in your mood or mood swings?
  • Do you find yourself crying frequently or feeling like you want to cry?
  • How has your energy and motivation been lately?
  • Have you had thoughts of harming yourself or suicidal thoughts? If yes, do you have a plan?

Your answers will inform the psychiatrist about symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, and other conditions with mood disturbances. Thoughts of self-harm require particularly close evaluation to determine the level of risk.

Questions about Sleep Patterns

Since sleep and mental health are closely connected, a psychiatrist will inquire about your sleep habits. Questions may cover:

  • How many hours of sleep do you get per night on average?
  • Do you have any problems falling asleep or staying asleep?
  • Do you feel rested when you wake up in the morning?
  • Have you experienced significant changes in energy during the day based on your sleep?
  • Do you ever experience racing thoughts that keep you from falling asleep?

Sleep disturbances can point to medical issues like sleep apnea or mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.

Questions about Concentration and Memory

A psychiatrist will want to know if you have any difficulty concentrating or problems with memory. Questions might include:

  • Do you feel like your mind goes blank at times?
  • Is it hard for you to focus or pay attention to tasks?
  • Do you struggle to remember important details and information?
  • Have you or others noticed increased forgetfulness or confusion?
  • Do you misplace items frequently?

Cognitive issues like these may be linked to medical conditions, mental health disorders, or age-related changes in the brain. Understanding concentration and memory issues provides context.

Questions about Eating Habits

Since there is a strong tie between mental health and diet, the psychiatrist will ask about your eating patterns. Example questions include:

  • Have you experienced any changes in appetite lately? Increased or decreased?
  • Have you lost or gained a significant amount of weight recently?
  • Do you ever binge eat or restrict your food intake?
  • Do you worry about your weight or body image frequently?
  • Have others expressed concern about your eating habits?

This line of questioning can reveal eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. Appetite and weight changes may also indicate depression or anxiety.

Questions about Drug and Alcohol Use

Expect the psychiatrist to ask about your use of drugs and alcohol. Questions may include:

  • How often do you drink alcohol? How many drinks per occasion on average?
  • Do you ever drink early in the day or drink alone?
  • Have you tried to cut back on alcohol without success?
  • Do you use any recreational drugs? Which ones and how often?
  • Have drugs or alcohol caused any problems with relationships, work, health, or the law?

This helps determine if substance abuse or addiction is present. Both significantly impact mental health.

Questions about Activities and Relationships

To gain better insight into your daily life, a psychiatrist may ask about your social activities and relationships. For example:

  • What types of activities and hobbies do you enjoy?
  • How often do you socialize with friends or family?
  • Are you currently in a romantic relationship?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your current support network?
  • Have you become more socially isolated lately?

Understanding your social connections and engagement in pleasurable activities helps assess functioning. Changes may reflect depression or other disorders.

Questions about Work or School

The psychiatrist will likely inquire about school or your current occupation. Questions can include:

  • Where do you work/go to school? What is your role or major?
  • How satisfied are you with your job or studies?
  • Have you had any recent issues like conflict, poor performance, or increased absences?
  • Has your productivity or concentration at work/school declined?
  • Do you get along well with bosses, coworkers, and peers?

This provides information on your level of functioning and engagement. Problems at work or school may be a sign of an underlying mental health issue.

Questions about Your Medical History

Expect the psychiatrist to ask about your overall physical health and medical history. Typical questions include:

  • Who is your primary care doctor? When was your last physical?
  • What medical diagnoses or chronic conditions do you have currently?
  • Have you had any major illnesses, surgeries, or hospitalizations?
  • What medications are you currently taking?
  • Have you noticed any changes in your energy and physical abilities?

Some medications and medical issues have side effects that affect mental health. It is also important to rule out any underlying physical causes of symptoms.

Questions about Your Family History

Understanding mental health conditions in your family helps the psychiatrist assess your risk factors. They may ask:

  • Does anyone in your family have a mental health diagnosis like depression or anxiety?
  • Do any relatives have substance abuse issues?
  • Is there any family history of neurological or developmental disorders?
  • Has anyone in your family attempted or died by suicide?
  • Where there any complications with pregnancy or delivery for relatives?

Many psychiatric disorders have genetic links and run in families. Your family background provides valuable information.

Questions about Your Psychiatric History

It is important for the psychiatrist to know if you have received any prior mental health treatment. They will likely ask:

  • Have you seen a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist before? When and for how long?
  • Do you have any past mental health diagnoses like anxiety, depression, or PTSD?
  • Have you ever been prescribed psychiatric medications? Which ones?
  • Have you been hospitalized before for mental health reasons?
  • Did you find past treatments helpful? Why or why not?

Your psychiatric history, including medications and therapies tried, guides the psychiatrist’s recommendations for the present.

Questions about Your Childhood and Development

For additional background, the psychiatrist may inquire about your upbringing and childhood experiences. Example questions include:

  • Where did you grow up? What was your household like?
  • Did you experience any trauma, abuse, or neglect as a child?
  • Were you raised by your biological parents? If not, who cared for you?
  • Did you achieve developmental milestones like walking and talking on time?
  • What were you like as a child? Any behavior issues or problems in school?

Early childhood experiences and development impact long-term mental health and risk for psychiatric disorders.

Questions to Clarify or Expand

The psychiatrist will also likely ask follow-up questions to any of your responses that need clarification or more detail. Examples include:

  • You mentioned having trouble sleeping. Can you describe more about that?
  • What specifically do you mean when you say you feel anxious?
  • How many drinks do you have when you drink alcohol?
  • When did your issues with concentration begin?
  • Can you give me an example of your mood swings?

Probing deeper with open-ended questions provides greater insight into your symptoms and experiences.


During an initial psychiatric assessment, the psychiatrist will ask about your symptoms, mood, sleep, concentration, eating habits, substance use, activities, work/school, medical history, family background, previous treatment, and childhood. Clarifying follow-up questions help provide more details. Being open and honest will facilitate an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

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