When it comes to mental health issues and diagnoses, there is a broad spectrum of potential issues, some of which are rather complex. Many family doctors routinely see patients for any number of common ailments and annual physicals. During their meetings, they will inquire about possible depression or anxiety, which are hands down the most common mental health issues. They may even administer a simple questionnaire to gauge the extent of depression or anxiety better. Based on this, they may recommend a trial of antidepressants to assist. In some cases, the patient may even get the relief they are looking for. For many others, their symptoms and problems persist.

What Skill Set Does a Psychiatrist Have Over My Family Doctor?

A psychiatrist is certainly more skilled at some of the less common mental health diagnoses that family doctors rarely see or treat such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, addictions, autism spectrum disorders, and the like. Interestingly, even among the common depressions and anxieties, there can be several subtle variations and differences. Some depressions can be a low-grade persistent depressive disorder or more severe depression may include psychotic features. There is post-partum depression, alcohol or drug-induced depression, and depression secondary to medical conditions. Anxiety could involve panic attacks, social anxiety, OCD, and PTSD, among other subtleties. Most of the medical community agrees that the diagnosis is what drives and determines the treatment plan and approach. The more precise and defined the diagnosis, the better treatment can be applied for efficient relief and care.

What Goes into a Psychiatric Evaluation and Diagnosis?

Your family doctor will do their best to assess depression and anxiety issues, and will ask you some screening questions, but will likely not spend more than 8-15 minutes on deciding. A psychiatrist will likely spend 45-60 minutes performing an in-depth evaluation of mental health issues.

  • Diagnostic Assessment: Psychiatrists perform a highly detailed and structured assessment interview intended to gather information about your symptoms, your individual and family history, medical history, and past psychiatric history, and explore many social stressors such as work, relationships, family, legal, financial, and academic issues.
  • Diagnostic Criteria: Psychiatrists are experts in the medical criteria for all mental health diagnoses which derive from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
  • Observations: Psychiatrists and highly skilled at assessing symptoms not just via verbal report but through observable presentation of a patient. This includes assessing the mood, affect, insight, judgment, grooming, thought content, motor activity, speech, and attitude.
  • Psychological Testing: In some instances, specifically tailored assessments and tests are used to pinpoint and rule out certain differential diagnoses to arrive at the correct diagnosis.
  • Collateral Information: In some instances, psychiatrists may take the time to solicit additional information from spouses, children, and other family members to inform the diagnostic assessment.
  • Cultural Considerations: Psychiatrists have additional training and knowledge in the presentation and manifestation of certain mental health disorders based on various cultures, and even some diagnoses that may be specific to certain cultures.
  • Duration and Impairment: Psychiatrists will take the time to explore the duration of symptoms and changes with them over time. Themes and patterns can often be discerned when taking the time to thoroughly evaluate the source and drivers for symptoms. The degree of impairment also determines if a diagnosis is even given and the possible course of treatment and medication selection.
  • Treatment Plan: As noted above, the diagnosis drives the treatment plan and selection. Psychiatrists have knowledge and expertise in the best medications and treatments for specific mental health diagnoses to ensure the highest probability of success and relief of symptoms.

If you are interested in having qualified expertise in treating your mental health issues, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule an appointment with one of our psychiatric providers for a more thorough assessment.  Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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