There is no blanket test that everyone can take to help diagnose a mental illness, but there are tools medical professionals have at their disposal. A correct and early diagnosis can make a huge difference in managing symptoms and working toward a healthy, happy life.
Generally, the first step is an initial evaluation by a doctor or mental health professional. They will look at your medical history, many times perform a physical exam, and ask a lot of questions about your symptoms. At that point, you may be referred to someone who specializes in mental illnesses like a psychologist or psychiatrist. They have specific diagnostic evaluations and assessments they can use to pinpoint exactly what is going on from your history and symptoms.
It is important to remember that even though the Internet is rife with self-tests and evaluations, only a trained professional can diagnose a mental illness. Mental health experts rely on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association as the standard diagnostic tool for the different mental disorders. The DSM is updated regularly and is currently on the fifth edition, or DSM-V. This manual classifies and defines each specific mental disorder and is used across the whole scope of medical health professionals to help define and diagnose mental illnesses.
The DSM is made up of three main parts: diagnostic classification, descriptive text, and diagnostic criteria sets. Professionals looking to make a diagnosis based on certain symptoms may first turn to the diagnostic classification, which lists all of the disorders and their diagnostic labels used in diagnosis that are currently in the DSM system. The descriptive text is just that – text describing each disorder in detail. In order to qualify for a specific diagnosis, a mental health professional will turn to the diagnostic criteria, which lays out what symptoms must be present or not present and the length of time required in order to make a proper diagnosis.
Other Types of Assessments
Other types of tests or assessments your health provider may use include:
- A lab test to check for specific abnormalities like thyroid function
- A physical exam to rule out physical symptoms
- A psychological questionnaire
- A mental health assessment and evaluation interview
Mental health disorders can be tricky to diagnose, and they change over time. A diagnosis may need to be adjusted more than once. Mental illness is understood to cause changes in the brain, and while there are currently no specific tests to identify these changes medically, science is constantly improving and evolving.
If you suspect you are, or a loved one is, suffering from a mental illness, your best resource is a highly trained mental health professional. In order to receive the best care and correct diagnosis, it is important to be honest when describing symptoms, thoughts and feelings.
Remember, you are not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that around 25 percent of American adults have a mental illness of some kind. Black Bear Lodge employs a staff of knowledgeable, skilled, and compassionate mental health professionals who are familiar with the diagnostic process and can offer you an evaluation and comprehensive treatment plan that is right for your specific needs. Call now to learn more.