Skip to content

Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

Select An Article

Diagnosing Mental Illness

Font Size

How Are Mental Illnesses Diagnosed?

A mental health diagnosis involves many steps beginning with an evaluation by a doctor or other mental health professional if symptoms of mental illness are present. The evaluation will begin with the health care provider asking questions about your symptoms and medical history and sometimes performing a physical exam. Although there are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose mental illness, doctors may use various tests to make sure something else isn't causing the symptoms. If no other illness is found, you may be referred to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional who is specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses.

Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for a mental illness. The doctor bases his or her diagnosis on the person's report of symptoms -- including any social or functional problems caused by the symptoms -- and his or her observation of the person's attitudes and behavior. The doctor then determines if the person's symptoms and degree of disability point to a diagnosis of a specific disorder.

Recommended Related to Mental Health

How to Stay Healthy, Happy, and Safe on the Road

In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our July/August 2012 issue, we asked WebMD's mental health expert, Patricia Farrell, PhD, about diminishing road stress on long-distance car trips. Q: I'm traveling cross-country this summer and anticipating long hours in the car. What can I do to stay safe and sane? A: Driving long distance presents all sorts of potential hazards. The trick? Plan your trip carefully --...

Read the How to Stay Healthy, Happy, and Safe on the Road article > >

The standard manual used by experts for the diagnosis of recognized mental illness in the U.S. is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM), which is compiled by the American Psychiatric Association.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on February 08, 2014
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

young leukemia patient
Article
Unhappy couple
Article
 
embarrassed woman
SLIDESHOW
clown
Quiz
 
Phobias frightened eyes
Slideshow
podium
Article
 
organize
Article
stressed boy in classroom
Article
 
Distressed teen girl in dramatic lighting
Article
man hiding with phone
Article
 
chain watch
Article
tarantula
Article