It isn’t as easy to diagnose a mental illness, as you’d think. Many disorders have similar symptoms and every individual experience different symptoms and to varying degrees. There’s no definitive test that tells doctors what mental illness a person has so psychiatrists have to work hard to find answers for their patients.
Before you see a mental health professional, you should go to a medical doctor so that they can rule out any physical illness that could be causing the symptoms. Doctors will evaluate the symptoms, as well as a full medical history to assess the situation. Once they have ruled out any physical disorder, they’ll refer people to a mental health professional.
Doctors will refer patients to a mental health professional, such a psychiatrist or a psychologist if their symptoms match that of a mental disorder and there are no signs of any physical problems. A regular doctor can guess what may be wrong with a person, but an official diagnosis should come from someone in the mental health field.
3. Psychological Evaluation
Mental health doctors use a very specifically designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a patient. They look at reported symptoms (as well as any social or functional problems that have been caused by the symptoms) and their own observations of a patient’s attitude and behavior.
After meeting and evaluating a patient, psychiatrists will begin looking at what diagnosis fit. Sometimes the symptoms point to a clear diagnosis, but since many mental illnesses have similar symptoms it usually takes some time. The standard manual used to diagnose patients is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM).
Once a diagnosis is given, patients and doctors can begin discussing treatment options and plans. The usual treatment plan for most mental illnesses is a combination of medication and psychotherapy. The exact treatment will, of course, depend on the individual, the mental illness they are diagnosed with, and the doctor.