A comprehensive psychiatric evaluation may help to diagnose any number of emotional, behavioral, or developmental disorders. An evaluation of a child or adolescent is made based on behaviors present. These behaviors are reviewed in relation to physical, genetic, environmental, social, cognitive (thinking), emotional, and educational components that may be affected as a result of the behaviors presented.
Many times, parents are the first to suspect that their child or teen is challenged by feelings, behaviors, and/or environmental conditions that cause them to act disruptive, rebellious, or sad. This may include problems with relationships with friends and/or family members, school, sleeping, eating, substance abuse, emotional expression, development, coping, attentiveness, and responsiveness. It's important for families who suspect a problem in one or more of these areas to seek treatment as soon as possible. Treatment for mental health disorders is available.
The following are the most common components of a comprehensive, diagnostic psychiatric evaluation. However, each evaluation is different, as each child's symptoms and behaviors are different. Evaluation may include:
Description of behaviors present (for example, when do the behaviors happen, how long does the behavior last, what are the conditions in which the behaviors most often happen)
Description of symptoms noted (physical and psychiatric symptoms)
Effects of behaviors or symptoms as related to:
Relationships and interactions with others (for example, parents, siblings, classmates, or teachers)
Personal and family history of emotional, behavioral, or developmental disorders
Complete medical history, including description of the child's overall physical health, list of any other illnesses or conditions present, and any treatments currently being given
Laboratory tests, in some cases (may be used to determine if an underlying medical condition is present), including:
Radiology studies to look for abnormalities, especially in the brain
Speech and language assessments
It's natural, and quite common, for a parent to question himself or herself when it becomes necessary for a child or adolescent to be psychiatrically evaluated. Parents may have many questions and concerns as to the welfare and emotional well-being of their child. Common questions parents often ask include:
What's wrong with my child?
Is my child abnormal?
Did I do something wrong in raising him or her to cause this condition?
Does my child need to be hospitalized?
Will my child require treatment?
Will my child "outgrow" these behaviors?
Is this just "a phase" my child is going through?
What will treatment cost?
Where do I go for help for my child?
What does this diagnosis mean?
How can my family become involved?
If a diagnosis is made based on one, or more, psychiatric evaluations, parent, and family involvement in treatment is extremely important for any child or adolescent with a mental health disorder. Your child's healthcare provider or mental health practitioner will address your questions and provide reassurance. He or she will work with you to establish long-term and short-term treatment goals for your child.
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