Second Opinions - Why
Should I ask for a second opinion?
You may want a second opinion if you feel there is uncertainty about your diagnosis or treatment. After a second opinion you may feel that there is some healthy debate about what options may be best for you, or the second doctor may agree about the best way forward.
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 make the best decision for you. The diagnosis or treatment you want may not be the one best suited to you.
It is important to remember that having a second opinion may not lead to a different opinion.
Uncertainty about your diagnosis
If you have a mental illness, your recovery may be better if a doctor spots and treats your illness early. But sometimes it can be difficult for your doctor to decide.
- It can be hard to recognise early symptoms of mental illness. Drugs or alcohol can cause similar symptoms, and your doctor might not be certain about what has caused them.
- Sometimes people may ignore or play down their symptoms. This can make it harder for doctors to recognise them.
- Some symptoms may change as you get older. 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.
- Your doctor may wait to make sure they do not give you a wrong diagnosis.
- A diagnosis stays on your medical records even if it changes later. Therefore, doctors may wait to diagnose you until they are certain.
- Some people can recover from one or two episodes 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 is not always a certain science, and different doctors may give you a different diagnosis.
- Even if a doctor is sure about your diagnosis, you or a carer, friend or relative may find it difficult to accept.
Uncertainty about treatment
You may feel that your treatment plan is not right. If you feel that a particular therapy or medication would help you but your doctor does not 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. Your local NHS is only likely to agree to this if you have already tried the usual treatments they offer.
It is important that your doctor reviews your medication regularly. They should check that it is helping with your mental health and whether you are getting any side effects. Medications can work differently with different people.
Trying to find the right medication for you might be a “trial and error” approach. However, if you feel your medication is wrong and your doctor will not change it you could ask for a second opinion.
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Contact our Advice team about mental health & related issues
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