Understanding Psychiatric Evaluations

Understanding Psychiatric Evaluations

If you suspect that your loved one may have mental health problems, an important step in getting the help that is needed may often be by undergoing a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation. For some people, however, this thought generates a lot of fear and anxiety due to a lack of understanding of what is entailed in a psychiatric evaluation. This post aims to shed some light on what a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation is, the criteria for initiating an evaluation, and the steps in this process.

What is a Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation?

A comprehensive psychiatric evaluation is a formal process of evaluating an individual’s physical, emotional, behavioral, or developmental state looking for clues that could signify a mental health problem. This type of evaluation is not restricted to only adults; children can also undergo psychiatric evaluation if parents or guardians suspect the presence of a mental health problem.

Who May Need a Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation?

There are several features to look for that may indicate that a person needs a psychiatric evaluation and eventual treatment with psychotherapy and or psychiatric medication. In toddlers and children who are not able to express themselves adequately, some of these signs are easy to miss. Some of the features or signs to look for are:

  • Children exhibiting unusual bursts of anger.
  • Children who are unable to focus in class, are hyperactive or exhibit other disruptive behaviors.
  • Children regressing to earlier developmental states such as thumb sucking, bed wetting, or baby talk.
  • Victims of mental, physical, or sexual abuse.
  • People who threaten harm to themselves or others.
  • People who display self-injurious behaviors such as head banging, hair pulling, and skin picking.
  • People displaying a sudden inability to care for themselves.
  • People displaying bizarre behaviors or behaviors that are uncharacteristic for them.
  • People with a previous history of a mental health disorder.

Structure of the Psychiatric Evaluation

Psychiatric evaluations are conducted by trained psychiatrists in a professional setting such as a doctor’s office. Depending on the situation and individual, the evaluation may be carried out in other settings such as at home or in a hospital. As much as possible, the goal is to ensure that the individual is comfortable and at ease during the evaluation process.

There is a standard framework that is used during a typical psychiatric evaluation. This framework can be adjusted as necessary based on the age of the individual, manner of presentation, and other prevailing circumstances. Additionally, you or other family members may be required to corroborate the information received from the individual. Generally, a standard psychiatric evaluation follows the structure detailed below.

1)  Presenting Complaint

  • Reason for the evaluation
  • Duration of symptoms

2)  History of Presenting Complaints

  • Severe of the symptoms
  • Impact of symptoms on quality of life
  • Specific factors that precipitate or relieve symptoms
  • Any other associated features or symptoms

3)  Past Psychiatric History

  • Any history of previously diagnosed mental health issues
  • Any medications taken in the past or currently for mental health issues

4)  General Medical History

  • Any history of current or past significant medical problems
  • Any medications taken in the past or currently for other medical conditions.

5)  Developmental and Psychological History

  • Description of significant events in the individual’s life
  • Any history of known stressors such as job loss, divorce, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, or other traumatic events
  • Description of coping strategies used to deal with stress
  • Description of the individual’s support system and relationships

6)  Family History

  • Any history of mental illness in the family
  • Any family history of suicide or other violent behavior

7)  Physical Examination

  • General assessment of client’s stature, movement, physical health.
  • Focused assessment on specific areas that may be relevant or impacted by presenting complaints

8)  Mental Status Evaluation (by way of questions)

  • Assessment of mood, speech, and affect for signs of mental disorder
  • General appearance of the individual
  • Any abnormalities in thought patterns
  • Any forms of hallucinations, delusions, or illusions
  • Level of cognitive function
  • Level of insight, judgment, and capacity for abstract thinking

At the end of this process, the psychiatrist may decide to refer for further laboratory or psychological tests to help arrive at a definite diagnosis or evaluate the individual’s physical and psychological state.

Common Questions Asked When A Loved One Is Evaluated

It is very natural and understandable to feel some anxiety and concern when your loved one has to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. You may have several questions about the evaluation process as well as the welfare of your loved one. Some of the questions that you might have are:

  • Am I responsible in any way for causing this illness?
  • What is wrong with my loved one?
  • Is my loved one abnormal?
  • What can I or my family do to help with this diagnosis?
  • What does this diagnosis mean?
  • Will there be a need for hospitalization?
  • How much will the treatment cost?
  • What kind of treatment will be needed to take care of this condition?
  • Is this condition just a phase that will pass?

It is okay to ask the psychiatrist or others involved in the care of your loved one any questions that you may have. As much as possible, they will try to provide you with the answers to all your questions.

At Sollars and Associates, we have trained psychiatrists to refer to Grand Rapids, and various other locations around Michigan who are skilled in conducting psychiatric evaluations. Contact us today if you think your loved one may have some psychiatric challenges that we can assist with.

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