Mental health is one of the most critical aspects of our well-being. When our mental health is good, we function well, work efficiently, and contribute to our community. Good mental health also helps us realize our potential and cope with stress in a healthy way. Unexpected challenges and difficult circumstances can negatively affect our mental health and interfere with our well-being. Unfortunately, recognizing the difference between a temporary challenge and an ongoing condition can be challenging. That’s why mental health diagnoses are so important.
Getting an official mental health diagnosis can help us identify what’s affecting our well-being and learn how to effectively manage symptoms to live a thriving, productive, and purpose-filled life.
Conditions That Commonly Affect Mental Health
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reveals that one in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness every year. One in six youth between the ages of 6 and 17 develop a mental health disorder every year. Some of the most common conditions affecting mental health include:
- Anxiety disorder. Characterized by extreme worry, anxiety disorders cause constant and overwhelming fear that triggers paranoia, restlessness, insomnia, and panic.
- Bipolar disorder. This disorder causes dramatic changes in a person’s energy, mood, and ability to think clearly. People with bipolar disorder have really high moments called “mania” and extremely low moments called “depressive episodes.”
- Borderline personality disorder. This condition, also called emotional dysregulation disorder, causes emotional instability, feelings of worthlessness, insecurity, and impulsive behavior. People with BPD may also have impaired social relationships and struggle with self-harm.
- Depression. Characterized by a depressed mood and loss of interest, this condition causes intrusive negative thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. Depression can also cause sudden and unexpected mood, sleep, and appetite changes.
- Dissociative disorders. These conditions, often related to trauma, hinder psychological functions, negatively affecting people’s memory, identity, emotions, and consciousness.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This disorder causes persistent, intrusive thoughts, obsessions, and repetitive behaviors that drive people to act compulsively.
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD typically occurs when people experience or witness a traumatic event such as abuse, natural disaster, an act of terrorism, war, combat, or a severe accident. The disorder causes nightmares, flashbacks, hostility, irritability, hypervigilance, and intrusive thoughts.
- Schizophrenia. This condition causes people to lose touch with reality. Most people with schizophrenia experience hallucinations and delusions that can make thinking, managing emotions, making decisions, and connecting with others challenging.
All of these conditions can put a damper on our well-being. Luckily, connecting with the right people can help clarify what’s affecting our mental health and give us tools to live a less debilitating, thriving, and productive life.
Who Diagnoses Mental Health Disorders?
Talking about our mental health with the right person is essential. Not everyone who works in the medical and behavioral health industries can provide us with a mental health diagnosis. Some professionals who can evaluate and give an accurate diagnosis include:
- Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have specific training to diagnose and treat mental health conditions.
- Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology. Psychologists also undergo training to administer psychological exams, make diagnoses, and provide mental health care.
- Clinical social workers. Clinical workers have a master’s or doctoral degree in social work. They also receive training to diagnose and treat mental illness.
- Licensed professional counselors. These counselors have a master’s or doctoral degree in psychology, counseling, or a related field. They can also diagnose conditions and provide mental health services.
- Child and adolescent psychiatrists. Like psychiatrists, child and adolescent psychiatrists are medical doctors who have specialized training to diagnose and treat mental health disorders in children, teenagers, and young adults.
How Does A Mental Health Diagnosis Happen?
Most mental health diagnoses happen in three distinct stages: a physical exam, a psychological evaluation, and the diagnosis and treatment plan.
Stage 1: The Physical Exam
Even though mental health disorders primarily affect the mind, most diagnoses begin with a medical professional performing a physical exam. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy suggests this order to identify any medical problems that might be causing symptoms of a mental health disorder. Most medical professionals conduct lab tests as well. When doctors cannot find a physical cause for the symptoms, they refer individuals to a mental health professional for a psychological evaluation.
Stage 2: A Psychological Evaluation
Many mental health conditions can be diagnosed through informal conversations. However, a therapist or mental health professional will sometimes administer a structured evaluation. These evaluations can come in several forms depending on the diagnosis. At this point, the therapist evaluates the answers and uses the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, Fifth Edition to determine an accurate diagnosis. Therapists might also assess the individual for other disorders that commonly accompany the initial diagnosis.
Stage 3: Treatment Plan
After giving a diagnosis, most therapists work with a team of other mental health professionals to develop an effective treatment plan. The group, which often includes a general practitioner, a psychiatrist, and a counselor, recommends inpatient or outpatient treatment depending upon the severity of the mental health disorder diagnosed. Even though talk therapy is the most common form of treatment for mental health disorders, some disorders can be treated with medication. The most effective treatment plans combine therapy and medication. Exercise, acupuncture, yoga, and massages can also be helpful.
Helping You Achieve Optimal Mental Health
Mental health is one of the most important aspects of wellness. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize how debilitating mental health conditions can be when they go undiagnosed and untreated. If you think you may be struggling with a mental health condition, getting an official diagnosis from a qualified professional is important. Our team is here to help you through every step of the process, from your initial evaluation to developing a treatment plan that works for you. Don’t suffer in silence – contact us today to learn more about our mental health treatment programs.
Innovative, Evidence-Based Therapies
Because mental health and addiction concerns are so often interconnected, we utilize research-based approaches with evidence-based outcomes that promote overall healing and recovery.