Mental Health Assessment and Diagnosis – Maybe it is something that you’ve wondered about for a while, or perhaps you’ve read something recently that feels to connect very deeply with how you experience the world – deciding to seek out a mental health assessment, to determine whether or not you have a diagnosis of sorts, can feel like a big decision. Let’s looks at the pros and cons of seeking a mental health assessment.
Certain terms get thrown around casually nowadays in conversation like, ”I’m so OCD with my cleaning”. But terms such as OCD, Bipolar, ADHD and so on represent real mental health diagnoses. So outside of casual reference, how and when do you decide to investigate further? Perhaps it’s for yourself, a child or a loved one; regardless of who is potentially being assessed it can feel daunting or even overwhelming to consider. Let’s look at some of the benefits of doing so below:
- Information is key. If you suspect that you/loved one has a mental health diagnosis, having that assessed and confirmed means that you now have access to information on how that mind works but also ways to make daily life easier. For example, people with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) may have been negatively mislabelled in their life as simply not paying attention or that they are allowing themselves to be disorganised, when in-fact the nature of their brain structure simply requires different techniques and understanding in order to thrive. Knowing this about yourself or a loved one changes how you can approach challenges and allows you to seek out accurate information.
- Accurate treatment. Perhaps you and your GP are aware of at least one of the symptoms that impact you and your life; you might have then been given basic medication based on that specific symptom or given certain tips to alleviate it. Time passes and the symptom is still impacting you greatly or another symptom is now even more pressing. You become frustrated, despondent and feel as though there is more going on than what your GP can assist with; then seeking the expertise of a psychiatrist or psychologist who offers assessments is needed. The correct diagnosis impacts your treatment options greatly and impacts the success rate of these. A complete assessment allows a better understanding of your mental health, rather than isolating and treating one symptom of it.
- When we do not fully understand ourselves or a loved one it can be easy to jump to conclusions about the situation and even be unfairly demanding or judgemental. For example, expecting a child with undiagnosed ADHD, ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) to self-regulate or handle school without additional assistance would be unfair and unrealistic. Perhaps you have unfair expectations placed upon yourself or feel negatively that you can’t seem to navigate the world the same way that others do. This can be a huge relief to understand yourself/loved one better and can positively improve your self-esteem, relationships, and productivity.
In order to receive an assessment, you will normally need to start with a referral to a mental health professional, this is most commonly done by seeing your GP. It is helpful to do some research beforehand into the options available so you can identify if there is a particular service you’d like to be referred to.
Despite the possible advantages many however still feel nervous around the idea of assessment which is completely normal, some common contributing factors to this include:
- It can feel daunting. Perhaps you have a suspicion that you may have a mental health diagnosis, perhaps you have even researched it and considered getting assessed. Taking the step to speak to your GP for a referral can sometimes feel daunting. It may be a fear of the unknown, nervousness of the process or fear in speaking about it to a doctor or professional. It is normal to feel some nerves around this topic, just remember you are not alone in this journey, and you can start by seeking out online support forums or talking to those you trust.
- It can be expensive or involve a wait. The global demand for mental health professionals that can provide assessments is high, this can push up the cost of seeking a private assessment. Seeking a referral through your GP and going the public healthcare route makes the journey more affordable however depending on the area or type of assessment required it can involve long wait lists which is disheartening for many. The process may take time, but if it feels important to you and your wellbeing then it is worth it.
- A fear of being labelled. For some, mental health is viewed through a negative lens, they feel that it is either not entirely real or that it would be shameful in seeking help around it. Someone who has explosive anger outbursts or intense and alarming obtrusive thoughts, may recognise that these are damaging to their lives but still view seeking help as pointless, shameful, or embarrassing. This can be heightened if there is a lack of support in their family or friends around mental health. Conversely, for some it can be a fear of not being diagnosed with something that you have long suspected, especially for those who have found great comfort in feeling like it explains a large part of their lives. In which case, if you feel that your life is positive and that you have the right resources and support in place, you may feel it unnecessary to seek out a formal diagnosis at this time which is also understandable.
So, with the above being said, what should you do if you suspect that you or a loved one require an assessment regarding mental health? The truth is that there often needs to be a degree of readiness and openness to the concept, this can take time and every situation is somewhat different. If you suspect that you may have a mental health diagnosis or if you suspect that you have been misdiagnosed; and that it’s either negatively impacting your life, the lives of those around you or simply because you want to know – then start by having the conversation with people you trust, your therapist or a supportive GP.
There are also far more online resources and charity organisations that can be a huge help while trying to navigate this time. Remember, no matter the outcome, you are so much more than a diagnosis, and there is no shame in seeking help, being curious and proactive about your mental health is a wonderful strength.
If you would like to know more about the process of seeking a referral please see the link below for resources, a video explanation & more:
This article was written by Lauren Hall, pre-accredited and newly qualified Psychotherapist at The DMC Clinic. If you are affected by the issues mentioned above, please contact The DMC Clinic to arrange an appointment.