Mental Health Evaluations

With the increased recognition and understanding of mental conditions, diagnoses and treatments of these issues have improved and become greater over time.

While historically there were not many resources available for evaluating those suffering from mental illnesses, there are many more options available today. Many people deal from some form of a mental illness, which covers a wide range of conditions. A professional such as a family doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist can conduct a mental health assessment in order to determine whether you may have a mental health issue. The assessment can also help the doctor or psychologist to know what kinds of treatment may be most beneficial in treating that illness.

Whether or not you feel as though you may have concerns with your mental health, it is important to have your mental health evaluated often. This can be as simple as asking your primary care physician about your concerns and answering a few questions for him or her or even having a full mental health assessment performed.

What is a mental health assessment?

The purpose of a mental health evaluation or assessment is to determine how your emotional wellbeing is, and whether your mental state is healthy. A mental evaluation will also help a doctor or psychologist to know whether you are at risk of hurting yourself or other people. During the evaluation, you will be asked a series of questions and you may need to complete various physical tests, depending on the severity of your concerns. These questions and examinations will help the professional determine a proper diagnosis if it is discovered that you have a mental health concern.

The mental health assessment is designed to differentiate between physical and mental health issues, and diagnose a variety of different mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addictions and more. Certain physical health issues may appear to be a mental health concern at first glance, but a professional evaluation can help you get the proper treatment and diagnosis.

Who Should Be Assessed

Everyone should have their mental state assessed multiple times throughout their life because maintaining a healthy mind is just as important as maintaining a healthy physical body. Even if you do not have any concerns about your mental health now, many life events can greatly affect your mental well-being. For example, if you have given birth, postpartum depression is something that can greatly affect your mental well-being even if you have not had prior issues with your mental health. However, if you have some immediate concerns regarding your thoughts, feelings and even behaviors, you should schedule a mental health assessment with a qualified mental health professional as soon as possible.

What to Expect

A mental health assessment usually involves a few different components, and the exact structure generally varies depending on what your mental health concerns are and who is conducting the assessment. Usually, at least a few of the following will be included in the assessment:

  • Physical test: It is possible that you can have a physical illness that has symptoms that mimic a mental illness. Therefore, it is important that your doctor run multiple tests in order to rule out any physical illnesses such as a thyroid or neurological problem. During the physical exam, it is important to let your doctor know if you are taking any medications or supplements. If necessary, your physician may require bloodwork, a urine test or even a type of body scan in order to determine if a physical issue is responsible for the symptoms you are experiencing.
  • Questions about mental health history: Your doctor will likely ask you questions about your personal or family history with any mental health issues. These questions may be included as part of a pre-appointment survey as well.
  • Questions about personal history: In addition to your mental health history, your doctor will probably ask you personal questions such as whether or not you are married, if you have children, whether you have been in the military, what your childhood was like and more. These questions are designed to help your doctor to determine how your past and current lifestyle may affect your mental state.
  • Mental and cognitive evaluations: During your assessment, your doctor will ask you more questions mostly about your thoughts, feelings and symptoms. In addition, you may be asked to perform basic cognitive tasks such as recalling information, performing simple math problems or recognizing common shapes. He or she will also observe your behavior throughout the evaluations as well to look for any abnormalities.

Mental Health Evaluations as Preventive Care

Getting a mental health evaluation is a very important component of preventive health care, as proper evaluation can help to prevent or delay the onset of a mental illness. Just like with a physical illness, there are certain lifestyle changes that can be made early on in order to prevent the mental illness from forming. Additionally, early detection of a mental problem can lead to early treatment that can either cure the problem or help the patient to live more comfortably.

Reasons Why Mental Evaluations Are Not as Common

When you visit your doctor for a routine checkup you can expect to be weighed and have your blood pressure measured. However, you may not expect your doctor to ask you questions about your stress levels or your emotional health. This is because the focus has usually been on preventing the onset of diseases such as cancer, and not on preventing diseases of the mind such as depression or schizophrenia. Although it has not been a common practice to evaluate patients on their mental state in addition to their physical state, it is becoming more and more prevalent. In fact, if you mention that something does not feel right about your mental state, some doctors will spend a few minutes during your physical exam asking you questions or may refer you to a professional for a full mental health evaluation.

If you have any concerns for your mental well-being, do not let misconceptions about mental illnesses prevent you from getting the care you need. Mental illnesses are just like diseases such as heart disease or cancer in that all of them affect the body in some detrimental way. However, instead of affecting the heart or the stomach, mental illnesses generally affect the brain. If you suffer from a mental illness, you may also experience physical symptoms in addition to the mental symptoms you deal with. Depending on the severity of your mental illness, you may have difficulty functioning normally each day, so it is extremely important to seek help in order to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment for any mental health concerns you may have.

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