What is a second opinion?
A second opinion is when you:
- Don’t agree with your current treatment or diagnosis, and
- Ask for another doctor to look at it again.
A second opinion:
- Might give you more information about what treatment options may be best for you, or
- Might lead to a new diagnosis.
But you might not get the outcome you want. The second doctor might
- Agree with the first doctor’s opinion, or
- Have another opinion that you don’t agree with.
Some people ask for a second opinion because they would like a particular diagnosis or treatment. The most important thing is to give your doctor the most accurate information so they can form an expert opinion.
To help a doctor to make a diagnosis you can keep a diary of your symptoms.
You might come across several professionals who might have an opinion about your mental health condition such as:
- A psychiatrist,
- A clinical psychologist
- A therapist
An opinion by a psychiatrist
Psychiatry is a medical branch that deals with the diagnosing and treating mental problems. Psychiatrists are medical doctors that may give medical prescriptions to their patients. They are doctors who deal with patients that suffer from anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorders, depression or post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), Schizophrenia,Psychosis and all sorts of addictions.
An opinion by a clinical psychologist
A clinical psychologist has additional medical training, compared to other psychologists. They use observation, interviews and techniques such as psychometric testing to assess you.
They work in partnership with you to design and put in place support and treatment to help overcome or improve your condition. This will usually include talking therapy.
An opinion by a therapist
A therapist will work with you to treat your mental health problem by using talking therapy.
A therapist might have an opinion on what mental health condition you have. But they can’t give you a formal diagnosis for your condition.
Why might a doctor be uncertain about my diagnosis?
If you have a mental illness, your recovery may be better if a doctor diagnoses and treats your illness early. But sometimes it can be difficult for your doctor to decide your diagnosis because of the following reasons.
- Sometimes people may ignore or play down their symptoms. This can make it harder for doctors to recognise them.
- Some symptoms may change in time. Your doctor may want to wait before they make a firm diagnosis.
- Symptoms of mental illness can also be caused by physical illness or medications. Your doctor might want to do some tests first.
- A diagnosis usually stays on your medical records even if it changes later. This may mean doctors may wait to diagnose you until they are certain.
- Some people can recover quickly from an episode of mental illness. A doctor may want to see if this happens first.
- There are no scans or blood tests to help doctors diagnose mental illness. Doctors are trained to make decisions based on your history and current symptoms. It’s not always a certain science so different doctors may have different opinions.
- It can sometimes be hard to recognise early symptoms of mental illness.
- Drugs or alcohol might mask symptoms of mental illness or cause similar symptoms.
Why might a doctor be uncertain about my treatment?
You may feel that your treatment plan isn’t right and that a particular therapy or medication would help you. If your doctor doesn’t agree you could ask for a second opinion.
Although psychiatrists are specially trained in mental health, they may not be an expert in a particular condition. You may want to get a second opinion from a psychiatrist who is an expert in treating your mental illness.
It is important that your doctor reviews your medication regularly. They should check that it is helping with your symptoms and whether you’re getting any side effects. Medications can work differently for different people.
Trying to find the right medication for you might be a ‘trial and error’ approach. You might feel your medication isn’t working as well as you’d hoped but your doctor won’t change it. You could ask for a second opinion.