The first doctor you will see about M.E. will probably be your GP (which stands for General Practitioner) at your local surgery. Your GP can make a referral to a specialist M.E. service. Usually, this is a multi-disciplinary team who understand your condition and help you learn how to manage it.
If you aren't able to get to the surgery to see your GP, you can ask for a home visit. The surgery should find a way to support you and monitor your illness when you are in this position.
Occasionally there are doctors who don't understand M.E. and may believe, wrongly, that it is a mental health problem. We also know that some doctors don't believe young people when they try and explain their symptoms. If this happens, please get in touch so we can support you with this.
Those who tell us they have a positive experience see doctors who have supported people with M.E. before, and understand that it is a neurological condition that can also have a big impact on your mental health, relationships and education. Other doctors may not know very much about M.E., but are open-minded and willing to listen to find out more and support you as best they can.
Making the most of your doctor
If you are able to see your doctor regularly and build a relationship, this will help when you need their support. If you develop any new symptoms or health problems it is important to tell your doctor so that they can see whether the symptoms are part of your M.E. or are caused by something different. They may be able to see a link which is not obvious to you.
Seeing your doctor regularly also means that:
- they can suggest ways of relieving some symptoms, even though they won't have all the answers
- if you become ill with additional symptoms, your doctor will know what your health was like before
- if you need to, you can ask them to share important information with your school about how M.E. affects you; this can also be useful if you are applying for welfare benefits
- they can potentially refer to occupational therapy and social care for support.
Not all doctors are taught about M.E. in medical school and your doctor may be able to learn from you and your experience. It's frustrating for both of you that there is no test for M.E. and they cannot provide you with a cure. Show your doctor see that you understand this, but that you need them for support and advice.
Doctors rely on evidence-based medicine, which means that it can be hard for them to do anything that hasn't been scientifically proven. So when you ask for something, it may be out of your doctor's hands, especially if your doctor doesn't have prior experience of supporting young people with M.E.
Read more about effective communication with your doctor.
Taking a parent or carer with you
When you go to a doctor's appointment with your parent or carer, decide beforehand who is going to do the talking. The message will come across better if you do the talking (if energy allowing).
If your mum, dad or carer is attending for moral support, they should sit a little further back than you, and a little more out of the doctor's eye-line. If the doctor still talks to them rather than you, your mum, dad or carer should sit back in their seat and avoid eye contact with the doctor. The doctor is more likely to transfer their attention to the person is sitting directly in front of them. ie. you. If your parent or carer needs to talk on your behalf, explain this to the doctor yourself at the beginning; there is no need to apologise for this.
The message is more effective if one person speaks without a lot of interruptions from the other. They should only join in if you invite them to or they believe you are struggling, at which point they should offer their help. If you are getting upset or feeling pressured by the doctor, either ask your parent/carer to take over or say that you will need to take a break.