Mental Health Is Hard to Diagnose
- Wednesday, 19 October 2011
For most medical problems, doctors can run simple tests to confirm that you have an issue. These tests can also help determine the severity of your disease and be used to determine the best treatment course. The diagnosis of mental illnesses is not so clear cut. We dont know the cause of many mental disorders, let alone how to test for them medically.
Another issue with diagnosing mental disorders is that someone is usually diagnosed with a disorder if they have a certain number of a large set of symptoms. That means two people could have the same disorder, but share only a few of the same symptoms.
Because disorders are classified from groups of symptoms, there are often patients that dont fit into a set group, but have symptoms that indicate more than one diagnosis. They may also have similar symptoms to a diagnosis, but they dont fit well enough. For example, someone could have symptoms of bipolar disorder, but their mood swings occur more rapidly than indicated in the standards.
The first step in diagnosing a mental health disorder is a full history. Your doctor will want to know not only your symptoms, but when they started, and other information to help them figure out what is causing your problems.
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and do medical tests like blood screenings. Often psychological problems can actually be caused by medical issues or nutrient deficiencies. Because your body isnt working right, your brain cant work right either. If this is the case, you will likely be referred to a medical doctor for treatment.
To help mental health professionals with diagnosis, different screening procedures have been developed to test for specific problems. Normally, these are simply a survey with a series of questions relating to common symptoms of the disorder. The questions are usually answered on a scale system, like one through five, etc. This can then be analyzed objectively to see if the patient fits the criteria for a particular diagnosis.
The disadvantage of these screening procedures is that they rely almost completely on the patient being honest, objective, and having an accurate assessment of their own actions and feelings. While some of the diagnosis is observation, the doctor is still relying almost entirely on the patient.
While diagnosing mental illness is not exact, it has proven effective and is being researched and improved constantly. With some time and effort, most mental illnesses can be properly diagnosed and effectively treated.