If you are worried about your mental health or that of a loved one, take steps to get a diagnosis. A correct and early diagnosis can make a huge difference in managing mental health symptoms. A diagnosis helps patients gain a deeper understanding of the challenges they face and the ways they can move past them. An accurate assessment followed by appropriate treatment leads to a healthy, balanced life.
How Do You Test Mental Health?
A mental illness diagnosis begins with a conversation with a health care professional. There is no one test for all mental health concerns, but professionals can use an array of tools and information. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) explains, “We cannot evaluate mental health itself through blood tests or other biometric data. Instead, doctors use their experience to determine how your set of symptoms fit into what we know about mental health.”1 Your doctor, psychiatrist or therapist will look at your medical history and ask a lot of questions about your personal history and symptoms. If you begin your conversation with a physical health care professional, you may be referred to a mental health care professional after potential physical causes have been ruled out. A psychologist or psychiatrist has more experience with specific diagnostic evaluations and assessments for mental health.
How Do You Get a Specific Diagnosis?
You can begin your diagnosis with a self-test or Internet evaluation. Make sure you choose one from a professional, recognizable source. Know that this is only a first, initial step. Only a trained professional can diagnose a mental illness. He or she will most likely rely on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual classifies and defines every currently recognized mental disorder. It helps professionals in all medical fields recognize, diagnose and treat mental illnesses. A DSM-based diagnosis is also used by insurance companies to determine coverage.
What Does My Diagnosis Mean?
A diagnosis is not a life sentence, and it is not written in stone. It simply gives you and your health care professionals the information needed to start treatment. Your symptoms are unique to you and may cross several categories. Nature explains, “Most patients turn up with a mix of symptoms and so are frequently diagnosed with several disorders, or co-morbidities. About one-fifth of people who fulfill criteria for one DSM-IV disorder meet the criteria for at least two more.”2 Mental illnesses exist along a spectrum, and symptoms change and evolve depending on where you are in life and treatment. This makes an accurate, professional diagnosis even more important. Addressing all co-occurring symptoms and concerns leads to better health and life-long results.
What Doesn’t a Mental Illness Diagnosis Mean?
A diagnosis does not mean you are alone. It does not mean you are stigmatized or defined by your diagnosis. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports: “In 2015, there were an estimated 43.4 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States with any mental illness within the past year. This number represented 17.9% of all U.S. adults.”3 If you face a mental illness, you are in good company. You have a wide community of support and understanding you can draw on at any time.
Taking the First Steps Towards Healing
Black Bear Lodge can help you find information and understanding. We employ a staff of knowledgeable, skilled and compassionate mental health professionals. We offer initial assessment and in-depth, ongoing diagnoses. Call now to learn more about the challenges you or a loved one faces. Call now to learn how you can move past these challenges and on to a healthy life.
1 “Understanding Your Diagnosis.” National Alliance on Mental Illness. Accessed 7 Oct. 2017.
2 Adam, David. “Mental Health: On the Spectrum.” Nature. 24 Apr. 2013. Accessed 7 Oct. 2017.
3 “Any Mental Illness Among U.S. Adults.” National Institute of Mental Health. 2015. Accessed 7 Oct. 2017.