Treatment for a mental health disorder varies based on the person, condition, and severity. It is usually some combination of medication, therapy, and inpatient or outpatient treatment. But you can’t be treated for a condition you don’t know you have. So, if you think you have a mental health disorder, how will it be diagnosed?
The first step is often a physical exam to rule out any underlying health conditions. Some symptoms of physical ailments mirror those of mental health disorders. For instance, fatigue may be a symptom of Depression or a sign of Hypothyroidism (or another health condition). Your doctor will order tests based on your symptoms. If it is determined that they are not due to a physical illness, you will work with a mental health professional.
The official text used to make mental health diagnoses is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association. This book is updated regularly to include new knowledge, streamline diagnoses to make them more effective, and reflect changing societal beliefs. For instance, in an earlier version, homosexuality was considered a mental health disorder. It was removed from the DSM in 1973.
The most recent version is the DSM-5. In the previous edition, Substance Use Disorders were two separate diagnoses of Substance Abuse and Substance Dependence. Substance Abuse was considered less severe because it didn’t necessitate physical dependence on a substance.
We now know that psychological and physical addiction are equally serious, and that people may become addicted to substances that are not as physically addictive. Diagnostic criteria for a Substance Use Disorder doesn’t weigh any one symptom as more severe than another, but instead tracks number of symptoms. In addition, the DSM-5 removed the word “abuse” to avoid stigma.
The DSM criteria for mental health disorders are based on mood, behaviors, and feelings. Your mental health professional will ask questions about these parts of your life in order to reach an accurate diagnosis.
You may experience a range of feelings after being diagnosed with a mental health disorder. This is normal. You might worry about facing stigma or be angry at what seems like a life sentence. You may feel a sense of loss. It is important to allow yourself to feel these emotions. But it also important to remember that a diagnosis is a great step. It is a move towards treatment.
If you think you might have a mental health or co-occurring Substance Use Disorder, there is hope. TruHealing Centers provides high-quality treatment for mental health disorders and addiction. Our facility Atlanta Center for Mental Health offers GeneSight Testing, a way to figure out which medications will interact best with your body. This saves you the often-frustrating process of trying multiple meds.
We are open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with hospital-grade sanitization of our facilities and telehealth options At our centers across the country, our staff will help you build coping skills in a safe and caring environment. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.