Comprehensive psychiatric evaluation

What is a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation?

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 and in relation to physical, genetic, environmental, social, cognitive (thinking), emotional and educational components that may be affected as a result of the behaviors presented.

When should a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation be sought?

Many times, parents are the first to suspect that their child or teen is challenged by feelings, behaviors and environmental conditions that cause them to act disruptive, rebellious or sad. This may include, but is not limited to, problems with relationships with friends or family members, school, sleeping, eating, substance abuse, emotional expression, development, coping, attentiveness and responsiveness. It is 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.

What is involved in a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation?

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 the following:

  • Description of behaviors present (i.e., when do the behaviors occur, how long does the behavior last, what are the conditions in which the behaviors most often occur)
  • Description of symptoms noted (physical and psychiatric symptoms)
  • Effects of behaviors/symptoms as related to the following:
    • School performance
    • Relationships and interactions with others (i.e., parents, siblings, classmates, teachers)
    • Family involvement
    • Activity involvement
  • Psychiatric interview
  • 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 administered
  • Laboratory tests, in some cases (may used to determine if an underlying medical condition is present), including the following:
    • Blood tests
    • X-rays - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones and organs onto film
    • Educational assessments
    • Speech and language assessments
    • Psychological assessments

A parent's concerns when a child is being evaluated:

It is natural, and quite common, for a parents to question themselves 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 frequently ask include the following:

  • What is wrong with my child?
  • Is my child abnormal?
  • Did I do something wrong in raising the child 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 physician will address your questions and provide reassurance by working with you to establish long- and short-term treatment goals for your child.