For many decades, talking about mental health was taboo, but things are changing due to increase understanding and awareness in our communities and as a nation as a whole.
A psychiatric evaluation is much like any other type of medical examination, except that it focuses on mental health instead of physical health issues. Experts can help pinpoint what type of mental health issues you are facing, and how best to treat them.
These evaluations are explorations into what might be troubling you or a loved one. There are many different tests and techniques that go into a psychiatric evaluation. Some are conducted in hospitals, others in private clinics or offices. Most often, a psychiatrist will be in charge of a psychiatric evaluation, but other mental health professionals often take part, too.
If you or a loved one has been advised to undergo a psychiatric or psychological evaluation, you probably have many questions. Knowing what is involved will eliminate surprises and alleviate nerves or stress. Here are some things you can expect during a psychiatric evaluation:
Review of Patient History
When you first come in for a psychiatric evaluation the psychiatrist or medical staff will ask you a few introductory questions about yourself, including basic information such as your name, age, whether you are married, names of family contacts, and importantly, what prompted you to come in for an appointment. This last piece of information is called a presenting complaint, or chief complaint, which is a medical term that means the issue that troubles you. For example, a patient might say, “I have been feeling very sad for a long time,” or perhaps, “There’s nothing wrong with me, my family made me come in.”
The patient history is very important because it gives the doctor a chance to understand who you are. Other parts of a patient history include your past medical history, any prescription drugs you have or are currently taking, information about your birth, your childhood, schooling, and employment. Your doctor will also ask you about your personal relationships and about any current or former use of alcohol or drugs. Finally, your doctor may talk to you about your cultural background and adherence to any formal religious beliefs.
The mental status examination (MSE) is an important, basic part of a psychiatric evaluation. Your doctor will listen carefully as you discuss your history and current issues in your life. There are specific criteria that a doctor uses in assessing mental status. Among other things, this can include;
- Mood, including being excitable or withdrawn.
- How a patient expresses thoughts: clearly and rationally, or scattered, etc.
- Ability to concentrate, remember, and be aware of surroundings (where a person is).
- Physical appearance, including grooming and hygiene.
- Behavior, including fidgeting, and avoiding eye contact.
In addition, there are some formalized tests that help professionals evaluate what issues a patient might be facing. These tests can help identify depression and other mental health issues.
Mental health and physical health are often linked. Your doctor will perform a comprehensive physical examination as part of a psychiatric evaluation. Some types of neurological problems can result in changes in mood and thinking. There are metabolic imbalances that can also alter mental health, such as thyroid imbalance. If your doctor has any further questions, medical testing, including blood tests, will be ordered.
An experienced mental health professional can help evaluate you or a loved one, make a diagnosis, recommend treatment, or perform further testing. To schedule a psychiatric evaluation, please call our Walpole, Mass., office at (508) 660-1666 or request an appointment online.