Psychiatric Evaluation: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Every person who has mental illness has a distinctive collection of experiences, difficulties, and viewpoints. Receiving the appropriate mental health care and therapy, which begins with a psychiatric evaluation, is the first step in improving their quality of life. To determine the most effective treatment strategy, this assessment collects crucial data about general cognitive ability, personal habits, qualities, and functioning.

What's a Psychiatric Evaluation
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What is a psychiatric evaluation?

A patient’s mental health is assessed during a psychiatric evaluation. They are carried out by a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. The mental health professional uses a psychiatric evaluation as a diagnostic technique to identify memory, thinking, emotional, and behavioral issues to diagnose a mental health condition.

The majority of mental illnesses require continuing care, just like other chronic conditions. The evaluation results help the psychiatrist in establishing the best treatment to reduce symptoms, which typically includes specific medications and therapy.

Who might need a psychiatric evaluation?

A psychiatric assessment is recommended for anyone who has been exhibiting or battling with the symptoms of a mental health disorder. You may have noticed changes in your child that are worrying, or you have observed changes in your mood or behavior.

Some people suffer from anxiety and depression while others have a more severe mental health condition like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Regardless, a psychiatrist can create a workable treatment strategy for their patient after making a diagnosis.

If you or a loved one are showing the following signs and symptoms, it would be beneficial to seek out a psychiatric evaluation.

  • Indulging in risky and excessive behavior related to alcohol, drugs, sex, or getting involved in criminal activity.
  • Unable to control emotions, thoughts, and actions.
  • Unexplained and consistent physical ailments.
  • A decrease in academic or work performance.
  • Sudden changes in eating, appetite, and sleeping patterns.
  • Having unrealistic fears and anxiety.
  • Difficulties forming and maintaining relationships.
  • Experiencing hallucinations and extreme paranoia.
  • Being a victim of abuse or trauma or witnessing traumatic events.
  • Concerning changes from usual behaviors, habits, and interests.
  • Having suicidal or homicidal thoughts.

What happens during a psychiatric evaluation?

A doctor’s evaluation of a patient’s mental state is based on a set of criteria. This can include, among other things, mood, such as feeling detached or excited, how coherent and organized the person is, their self-awareness and that of their surroundings, physical presentation, and body language.

A psychiatric evaluation for adults will involve a qualified psychiatrist carrying out the following tests:

  • Interview

The psychiatrist will have an in-depth interview with the patient and ask for the reason behind the visit. They can then delve into the symptoms, personal and family history, recent or past traumatic experiences and current life situation. Depending on the symptoms and age of the patient, family members may be involved too.

  • Physical examination

Sometimes a physical illness might be the root of psychological symptoms. For instance, low thyroid hormone levels can result in the same symptoms as depression. A physical exam, and blood and urine tests may be done to rule out a physical illness and assess the body’s levels of hormones, vitamins, electrolytes, and recent alcohol and drug use.

  • Cognitive assessment

The psychiatrist will also examine how well the patient’s cognitive function is by completing a series of tests and questionnaires. This identifies the patient’s ability to focus, recall memory, use problem-solving skills, assess intellectual functioning, and understand personality traits and behavioral triggers.

How to prepare for a psychiatric evaluation

It is always recommended to have some level of preparedness to effectively complete the evaluation and have a less stressful experience. But first and foremost, follow your psychiatrist’s orders in the hours leading up to your assessment.

  • Introspection

Have an honest think about the reasons you are going for the assessment. It could be beneficial to chronicle your thoughts and feelings in the days and weeks leading up to the assessment as you will have a lot of valid information to provide.

  • Describe the symptoms

If you are able to accurately note down your symptoms and the events or triggers that exacerbate your condition, it all helps towards your diagnosis and treatment plan. If you are feeling unsure of how to describe what you are going through, the psychiatrist will help you address these issues in therapy.

  • List all medications and supplements

Make a list of any other medications you take regularly or infrequently, as well as any herbal remedies, and vitamin supplements. Medication can interact with different substances so your psychiatrist should know this up front.

  • Ask questions

Patients should ask any question they deem necessary to feel confident and comfortable with going through the evaluation. This can also include discussing costs and health insurance.

  • Items to take with you

Typically, there is nothing the person needs to bring to the evaluation other than paper copies of records (if requested), reading glasses, hearing aids, and photo identification.

  • The night before

The outcomes of the test may be impacted by behavior the day before. Get sufficient rest and abstain from alcohol and other intoxicants because being fatigued alters how the brain functions. Evaluations can be lengthy so eat a nutritious breakfast the morning of the test.

The importance of psychiatric evaluations

Evaluations are extremely important when it comes to understanding oneself better, working through addictions, abuse, trauma, or suffering from an existing mental health condition. There is no pass or fail result in the assessment, unlike a final exam in school. Instead, the mental health specialist who conducts the tests utilizes the findings to make a diagnosis and choose the most effective course of therapy tailored to the patient.

They will discuss the diagnosis and explain what the patient can anticipate in the upcoming days, weeks, months, and years with treatment. It usually consists of both medicine and psychotherapy, but the approach is determined by the seriousness of the condition and the level of ongoing distress experienced by the patient. Treatment and recovery may be more challenging the longer an illness lasts, and prognosis is better with early intervention and treatment. Speak to your family doctor if you are unsure of how to get a psychiatric evaluation.