How are mental disorders diagnosed?

A medical professional determines a diagnosis by interviewing you about your history of symptoms. Sometimes a doctor will require a couple of medical tests to rule out possible physical ailments, but we cannot assess mental health itself through blood tests or other biometric data. The common feature of all depressive disorders is the presence of a sad, empty or irritable mood, accompanied by physical symptoms and cognitive changes that significantly affect a person's ability to function. Your doctor may order blood tests, urinalysis, brain scan, or other tests to rule out a physical condition.

It will also probably answer questions about drug and alcohol use. Your doctor will ask you questions about how long you've had symptoms, your personal or family history of mental health problems, and any psychiatric treatment you've had. In general, to meet the criteria for mental illness, your symptoms must cause significant distress or interfere with your social, occupational, or educational functioning and last for a defined period of time. A physical exam can help determine if there is something else, such as a thyroid disorder or neurological problem, at play.

Mental health conditions are disturbances in a person's thinking, feelings, or behavior (or a combination of these) that reflect a problem in mental function. Classification and diagnosis are a major concern for both mental health providers and mental health clients. For example, some are more likely to go to a health professional with complaints of physical symptoms caused by a mental health condition. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 21% of American adults over the age of 18, or about 52.9 million people, have any diagnosable mental disorder in any given year.

The specific treatment for a mental disorder varies depending on the condition and needs of the individual. A mental health evaluation is when a professional, such as your family doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist, checks whether you may have a mental problem and what type of treatment can help. Like adults, children can receive mental health assessments that involve a series of observations and tests by professionals. Merck's Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy recommends that a physical examination be performed to check for medical problems that may be causing, accompanying, or resulting from a psychological disorder.

This heterogeneous group of disorders is characterized by the inability of a person to fully participate or experience sexual pleasure. Mental health professionals often begin an evaluation by discussing current symptoms. Antidepressants, anxiolytics, antipsychotics, and other medications may also be helpful in treating mental disorders. Left untreated, mental illness can have a major impact on daily life, including your ability to work, care for the family, and relate to and interact with others.

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