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Mental Health Center

Mental Health Screening

Mental illness is difficult to diagnose. There are many similarities and crossover symptoms between diagnoses. The task is also complicated by the fact that many patients suffer from more than one mental illness at a time.

There is a professional guide to diagnosing mental illness. The American Psychiatric Association publishes a book titled, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, in which detailed symptoms are delineated. The detailed criteria delineated in this book are used by healthcare providers to establish a mental illness diagnosis and health insurance companies to determine appropriate reimbursement for the prescribed treatment plan.

The broad spectrum of mental illnesses includes the following disorders:

  • Anxiety-post-traumatic stress syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Mood-depression, bipolar disorder
  • Psychotic-hallucinations, delusions
  • Eating-anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa
  • Addiction-alcohol and drug addiction
  • Impulse control-compulsive gambling
  • Personality-paranoia, obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Adjustment-to a new or stress-inducing situation
  • Dissociative-split personality
  • Gender-sexual dysfunction, gender identification
  • Somatoform-psychosomatic illness identification
  • Tic-sudden, uncontrolled body movements
  • Cognitive-Alzheimer's disease, dementia
  • Developmental-autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

The Diagnostician

Most patients begin seeking healthcare to assess symptoms and diagnose mental health disorders through their primary care physician (PCP). It is critical to rule out any physical cause of the presenting symptoms before moving forward with a mental health assessment.

Generally, a PCP will refer a patient to a psychiatric healthcare professional for detailed assessment of symptoms and the development of a treatment plan.

The Diagnostic Tests

It is a challenge to diagnose mental illness because, most often, there are no visible symptoms. Diagnosis is based on how the patient and/or family member describe their emotional and physical symptoms. How is a patient diagnosed?

  1. Physical examination: A routine physical will be conducted to rule out any underlying causes of a mental health disorder.
  2. Psychological examination: The physician will ask about specific symptoms, how they affect everyday life, the severity of the symptoms and how long they have been experienced.
  3. Laboratory tests: While limited in the scope of what can be tested in the lab, there are two areas that can be checked: thyroid function and screening for drugs and alcohol that could affect the scope of mental illness. If both of these studies are negative, there are limited other lab tests that offer much information relative to mental illness.

Early detection of mental illness is crucial to effective treatment and successful outcome. Seek medical attention for professional assessment of the signs and symptoms of mental illness.

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