Parents are often the first to suspect that their child or teen is challenged by feelings, behaviors and/or environmental stressors that cause him or her to act out, rebel or be sad or anxious. Examples may include, but are not limited to, problems with friends or family, sleeping, school, eating or substance abuse. It is important for families who suspect a problem in one or more of these areas to seek help. Treatment for mental health disorders is both available and effective.
The following are the most common parts of a comprehensive, diagnostic psychiatric evaluation. However, each evaluation is different, just as each child's symptoms and behaviors are different. Some information will be gathered during an interview. Other information may involve the child, family member, or another significant person (teacher, school counselor, pediatrician) filling out paper forms.
Evaluations may include:
- Description of current behaviors (i.e., when the behaviors occur, how long the behavior lasts, what the conditions are in which the behaviors most often occur)
- Description of how the behaviors affect relationships and interactions with others (i.e., parents, siblings, classmates, teachers), school performance and involvement in social activities
- History of previous treatment for emotional or behavioral disorders
- Psychiatric interview
- Family history of emotional, behavioral or developmental disorders and any treatment for these disorders
- Complete medical history, including description of child's overall physical health, list of any other illnesses or conditions present, and any treatments currently being administered
- Developmental history
- Laboratory tests and scans, in some cases (may be used to determine if an underlying medical condition is present), including:
- Blood tests
- X-rays, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Other types of testing may include educational assessments and/or speech and language assessments
Parent's Concerns with Evaluation Process
It is natural, and quite common, for a parent to have many questions when a child or adolescent needs to have a psychiatric evaluation. Parents may worry how they will be viewed during the evaluation. They may have many questions and concerns as to the welfare and emotional well-being of their child. Common questions from parents include:
- What is wrong with my child?
- Will my child "outgrow" these behaviors?
- Is my child going through a "phase"?
- Where do I go for help for my child?
- How can my family become involved?
- Will my child require treatment?
- What does this diagnosis mean (for the future)?
- What options do I have?
- What treatment options are available?
- What will treatment cost?
- Does my child need medication?
- Does my child need to be hospitalized?
If the evaluation shows evidence of a mental health disorder, active participation from the parent and family is a very important part of treatment. Your child's healthcare provider is there to support your family, answer your questions and work with you and your child to understand the diagnosis and make a plan for treatment.