One of the best ways to take care of yourself and prioritize your health is to make sure you see a doctor when you need to. Whether you need a doctor for your physical health or mental health, you need to ensure that you’re going to the medical professional who can offer you the specific treatment you need. With the right treatment, you can start the journey to being your best self. Let’s take a look at different facets of health and who you should visit for each one.

Self-Care 101: How To Know What Kind of Doctor You Need to See

For Your Regular Physical Check-Ups

Everyone should have a primary care doctor. You can go to them for annual physicals to ensure your physical health is in tip-top shape and you can also bring any specific health concerns you have to them. The two main types of primary care physicians are family physicians and general practitioners. These doctors treat patients of any age and gender, although they may specialize in a certain type of care.

To find the right primary care physician for you, the most important thing to do is to find one that you can trust. You’ll need to have good communication with them and the ability to establish a long-term relationship. If you want a doctor who specializes in a certain field to better suit your specific needs, such as women’s health or elderly care, remember to look for those specializations. It can help to ask your friends or family members who are in the same demographic as you who their doctor is and what they think of them. You can also look at reviews online to get a gauge of the experience of patients who go to that doctor.

For Specific Physical Ailments

If your primary care physician diagnoses you with a specific condition or ailment, they may refer you to a specialist for further treatment. For instance, your doctor could refer you to a cardiologist if you have high blood pressure or other issues related to your cardiovascular system. If you’re among the 15% of American adults who report having trouble hearing, your doctor may refer you to an audiologist. Your primary care physician will still be your main doctor, but the audiologist — or cardiologist or any other type of specialist — is going to have the in-depth knowledge to properly treat your condition.

Once you know the type of specialist you need, do some research on the specialists in your area. Even if your primary doctor gave you a referral, it’s a good idea to check the specialist out for yourself before you make an appointment. One of the most important things to check is whether going to the specialist will be covered by your health insurance. You’ll also want to figure out if you’ll be expected to pay out-of-pocket costs or copays when you see the specialist.

As you’re researching specialists, be sure to pay attention to their backgrounds. Read their bios online and verify that they are board-certified. All medical specialists have to go through a specific amount and type of training and experience before they can see patients. Hand therapists, for instance, need to be registered therapists with five years of experience and 4,000 hours. If you’re looking for a hand therapist to treat your condition and see one that has less experience than that, they may not be qualified to treat you. Although researching the different credentials for different specialists may take some time, it will be worthwhile to ensure you receive the best treatment possible.

For Your Mental Health Needs

If you are struggling with your mental health, it’s important to speak with a professional about it. There are many different types of mental health conditions that all have their own symptoms. In general, you may have an underlying mental health condition if you experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Persistent or frequent feelings of sadness, fear, anger, or anxiety
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or others
  • Frequent mood swings or emotional outbursts
  • Significant changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Reluctance to participate in social activities or relationships you used to enjoy
  • Substance abuse
  • Hallucinations or delusions

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you may have depression, anxiety, or another type of mental illness. While some people start experiencing these symptoms suddenly, others experience them after going through trauma. This could be a specific event, such as a being in a car accident, or a long-term situation, such as an abusive relationship. People who have experienced domestic violence, which is an assault that occurs between two people who have a domestic relationship, may start experiencing some of the symptoms listed above as a result of the traumatic relationship. Whether you believe your symptoms are a result of a specific situation or your symptoms gradually came on with no apparent reason, you can seek professional help.

The first step to getting help is to speak with your primary care physician. You can make an appointment with them and they can help determine what type of healthcare provider you should see. They’ll likely also provide a referral to a specific mental health specialist they know. For mental health needs, you’ll likely be referred to a therapist, psychiatrist, psychotherapist, or psychologist.

Keep in mind that even though your primary care physician is referring you to a certain specialist, you don’t need to keep seeing them if they aren’t a good fit for you. Once you know the type of mental health professional you need, you can do some research and find one who is a good fit for you.

Taking better care of your health is the first step to taking better care of yourself. If you’ve made it a goal to prioritize self-care this year, be sure to find the right doctors for your mental and physical health.