How Is Mental Illness Diagnosed? Four Factors Professionals Observe

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One out of four people suffers from mental illness. The majority of them never receive a formal diagnosis.

That reality has prompted our team to write this post on mental illness, particularly to answer the question, “How is mental illness diagnosed?”

Mental illness diagnoses’ aren’t as cut and dry as diagnosing easier to spot physical illnesses. Coming to conclusions on psychological issues is done through a variety of tests and comes down to the opinion of a qualified physician that can then prescribe a treatment plan.

Below, we outline common tools healthcare providers lean on to make a diagnosis.

1. Family History

There is a strong genetic component to mental illnesses: family history. That makes it easier for doctors to narrow down which issues may be plaguing you.

Family history that doctors will look at will usually extend to your siblings, parents, and grandparents on both sides of your family. For that reason, you’ll want to come prepared with information regarding your close family’s history with mental disorders before speaking with your physician.

2. Psychological Exams

After an analysis of your family and personal medical history, doctors will likely subject you to psychological exams. These exams tend to be simple and are based around a series of questions that aim to gauge how you’re feeling and how those feelings would lead you to react to certain situations.

While not a perfect indicator of illness, doctors can take your answers and compare them to answers of other patients that were formally diagnosed with different disorders. It will hopefully enable physicians to further filter what you may be struggling with.

3. Physical Exams

Your physical body can have a tremendous impact on your psychology. For example, you may have gone to a doctor to learn how to stop a panick attack only to find that your lungs are having issues retaining oxygen, which is the root of why you haven’t been able to stop anxiety you’re experiencing.

Given the body’s physical and mental contentedness, most doctors will have you undergo extensive physical exams to see if there may be any obvious catalysts for your mental issues. Problems that are found will be referred to the appropriate specialist.

4. Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a tell-tale sign of mental disorders. For that reason, those that are seeking a formal diagnosis should expect to answer questions related to drinking and drug use. Patients may also have their blood drawn to give physicians a clearer picture of the extent that abuse may be taking place.

How Is Mental Illness Diagnosed?

How is mental illness diagnosed? As you can see, that’s a complicated answer. Coming to a proper diagnosis is a cross-disciplinary effort that is often imperfect.

The best advice we can offer you is to find a competent physician and to be completely honest with them so they can guide you as best as possible to the help you need.

If you’d like more information on mental health disorders, feel free to read more relevant content on our blog.

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