Why Did They Ask Me That Question?

Whether it’s at an appointment with your primary care physician (PCP) or with a behavioral health specialist, you may be asked questions that don’t seem related to your reason for being there
For example while in the waiting room you may be asked to fill out several forms.  These forms may have questions about your use of alcohol, tobacco, prescription medications or other drugs.  Or the doctor may ask these questions during your appointment. 
There are several reasons for this.  Even at low levels, use of alcohol or drugs can put your health at risk. They may mask, or cover up, symptoms that will help your doctor or therapist make the right diagnosis of your problem.  Most importantly, they can interact or interfere with the medications or other treatment you are receiving for medical or mental health conditions.   So don’t be offended at these questions.  Answer as honestly as you can.  And know that it is one way to be sure you get the right, best and safest care. 
If your provider hasn’t asked these questions and you’re not sure how to bring the subject up yourself, the links below will take you to online screening tools.  You can print your results and take them with you to your next appointment.
Another form you may be asked to sign is called an Authorization for Release of Information.  This gives your doctor or therapist permission to talk to another provider who is treating you. 
You may think that there’s no reason for your PCP to know that you are getting mental health treatment.  Or for your therapist to know that you have  diabetes but allowing them to share information helps both of them to better understand your symptoms and ultimately helps you to get the treatment you need from each of them. 
If you have concerns about privacy and what specific information will be given, talk to your provider about them.  You do have the right to choose whether to have your health information shared.