Lay your cards on table about mental, physical illness

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People with mental health and substance use disorders also frequently have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma and/or extensive tooth decay. Depression and anxiety can cause a variety of symptoms, affecting both your mood and your body.

Communication between your medical, dental and mental health providers is complicated. As a patient, advocate for yourself by talking “off topic” about concerns that aren’t directly under the care of the professional you are seeing. If you don’t speak up, the provider won’t have a complete picture of your health.

An example: your medical doctor diagnoses a stomach ulcer. Talk about the stress and/or anxiety you’ve been experiencing, and ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health therapist.

Another example: your dentist recommends a bite guard because you grind your teeth. Tell the dentist you want to stop the stress causing your urge to clench your jaws instead of just treating the symptom.

You are the only real link between your doctor, dentist, counselor and specialists. Most likely, their record keeping systems don’t interact, so professionals from different fields of practice can’t access all of your information. For your own wellbeing, tell each provider about all your health concerns.

Ann Cochran is the health navigation coordinator in the Dallas County Health Department.

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