How Are Mental Health Disorders Diagnosed?

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If you’re struggling with persistent, ongoing sadness, invasive thoughts, or other troubling symptoms, you could be suffering with a behavioral health disorder. Although a stigma has long been attached to these types of illnesses, it is important to remember that you are not alone.

Data from the National Alliance on Mental Health notes that one in five adults experiences mental illness in any given year. According to the Anxiety and Depression of Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common behavioral health issue for U.S. adults, followed by major depressive disorder.

Mental health help is available if you’re concerned about the way you’ve been feeling. These are the five common steps used to make a medical diagnosis of a behavioral health disorder.

Comprehensive Medical Exam

Often, the first time a person expresses his or her troubling behavioral health symptoms is during an appointment with a primary care physician. Sometimes, physical issues manifest with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Mental health conditions can also have physical symptoms like insomnia, appetite changes and aches and pains.

A thorough medical exam by your family physician can help rule out physical health problems that can contribute to behavioral health issues, such as thyroid issues. These issues will be treated if present and the doctor will monitor to ensure that mental health symptoms resolve.

Lab Testing

In addition to a full medical exam, your physician may recommend lab tests to look for physical imbalances that can cause, be caused by, or occur in conjunction with symptoms of depression and anxiety. These tests often include:

  • Fingerstick glucose testing
  • Urinalysis and blood alcohol screening
  • Complete blood count
  • Measurement of therapeutic drug levels if applicable
  • Pulse oximetry
  • CT scan if you have a history of trauma or symptoms such as headaches

Keep in mind that lab tests cannot definitively diagnose behavioral health disorders. They do, however, provide insight into other illnesses that affect and are influenced by mental health.

Mental Health Evaluation

When no physical cause can be pinpointed for depression symptoms, the next step is a full mental health evaluation by a psychiatrist and/or licensed clinician. He or she will discuss your current symptoms and your history of mental health issues. Whether the conversation is formal or informal, this professional will compare your symptoms to those in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to make a diagnosis.

Analysis of Co-Occurring Disorders

Those who are diagnosed with mental health and behavioral health conditions often have coexisting substance use disorders. If you or your doctor suspect that depression, anxiety, or other conditions are exacerbated by drug or alcohol use, he or she will recommend treatment for the underlying addiction as well as for your behavioral health diagnosis.

Treatment Plan Development

When your mental health care provider has made a suspected diagnosis, he or she will develop a treatment plan based on the best evidence-based practices for your specific condition. Often, this involves a combination of talk therapy and medication along with treatment of any coexisting disorders.

If you or a family member needs behavioral health help, Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare provides outpatient care for a variety of mood and psychiatric disorders within the Atlanta area. Contact us to make an appointment and start your recovery today.

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Adolescent IOP IOP Treatment Center Atlanta

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