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What to Expect During a Mental Health Evaluation

What to Expect During a Mental Health Evaluation

When you have a lingering injury or a mysterious pain, or you simply feel sick all the time, you go to the doctor to find out what’s wrong. No one expects you to “just live with” a physical condition that gets in the way of your everyday life without trying to get to the root of the problem.

Unfortunately, many people don’t feel the same way about getting screened for mental health issues.

It’s understandable. When you’re anxious, stressed or sad all the time, there might not be anything physically wrong, and it can be hard to feel sure about whether you’re having more than just some bad days. You might feel an urge to just “tough it out” because of the stigmas surrounding mental health, especially if the people around you seem to have that attitude. But help is available, and it’s as normal and important for you to seek it out for mental health care as it is for physical health care.

So where do you start? You can seek out a center or program like our Behavioral Health department to ask for a psychiatric evaluation. If the idea of an evaluation brings up fear or discomfort, you’re not alone. Many people feel anxious about something so official-sounding and are afraid to even tell anyone they’re going. However, your screening is no different than any other diagnostic or preventative screening you’d get for physical symptoms. It’s a thorough checkup to try to understand where your issues are coming from and what kind of care you need to treat them.

What Will Happen in Your Screening

Your evaluation may have several different parts to it, including:

  • A physical checkup, to rule out any physical illness or injury that might be affecting your mental health;
  • Lab tests, if it seems like there might be a medical condition involved;
  • A psychiatric interview to ask you some questions about the things you’re feeling and what’s going on in your life;
  • A crisis evaluation if your situation includes trauma or seems life-threatening;
  • Taking a detailed family history of mental health, illnesses, behavior or developmental disorders, and more.

From there, your care team will talk to you about your results and discuss the best options for treatment, which might include therapy, prescription medication, lifestyle changes, group support, or in-center treatment. They’ll offer you referrals and recommendations, help you understand what you’re going through, and work with you to make the best choices for your care.

What’s Holding You Back?

Sometimes, people are afraid to tell their loved ones that they need mental health care or need help seeking it out, because they fear being “locked up” against their will as a result of sharing how they feel. If that’s something you worry about, rest assured that involuntary hospitalization is very rare (on average, only 9 out of every 1,000 severely mentally ill people receive an involuntary commitment) and reserved for cases where the person is a serious danger to themselves or others, and/or is severely disabled by their illness to the point of not being able to consent to the treatment they need. In the vast majority of cases, patients are able to make their own decisions about how to handle treatment.

You might also be wondering whether a mental health screening is something you really need. It’s never a bad idea to seek out mental health care, even if the issues you’re dealing with are temporary or mild. But some signs that a psychiatric evaluation might be especially important for you or a loved one may include:

  • Difficulty dealing with normal tasks and interactions at work or school;
  • Trouble sleeping (whether it’s too much or too little sleep);
  • Constant negative thoughts about yourself, your body, or your relationships;
  • Self-harming behavior;
  • Thoughts of despair or suicidal feelings;
  • Trouble managing your anger, or lashing out physically at others;
  • Feelings of numbness or apathy, including “checking out” mentally or emotionally;
  • Physical pain with no obvious cause, or symptoms like dizziness or a racing pulse or upset stomach;
  • Pulling away from friends and loved ones;
  • Feelings of anxiety, doom, overwhelm, or helplessness;
  • Any way that your mood or mental state is making it hard for you to cope with everyday life.

If you feel like any of this describes you, or someone you care about, please reach out to our Behavioral Health department to talk about getting a screening and explore our treatment options. You deserve to feel better, and you don’t have to go it alone. We’re here to help.