Reflections on Patient Care
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Getting a Diagnosis: Demystified

by Nikita Amin


Self-diagnosis of mental health conditions has been on the rise amongst social media users, especially on the platform TikTok.  This dangerous practice can lead to not only the spread of misinformation on these conditions, but also in that users can potentially cause inadvertent harm to themselves.  The best and only way to treat a psychological issue is to see a medical professional, and get a diagnosis.  To many of the people consuming inaccurate information relating to mental health on social media, getting diagnosed is a mysterious and obscure task.  

Getting a diagnosis, however, can be very simple.  There are no definitive biological tests that can be performed for the majority of psychiatric disorders.  Instead, in most cases, a patient does a short interview with their psychiatrist followed by a series of questionnaires.  These questionnaires are standardized and help a psychiatrist determine if you may be experiencing any psychiatric conditions that they can help with.  From there, depending on the provider, it takes about 1-2 weeks for the professional to analyze the results and get back to you.  Once your psychiatrist has your results, often you’ll meet with them again to discuss their findings, plans for treatment, and possibly the need for further testing.  

The reason it is critical to visit a mental health professional in order to get a grasp on any conditions you may be experiencing is that despite experiencing key symptoms of a disorder, it doesn’t always mean you have it.  For example, a person may believe that they are experiencing symptoms of ADHD such as inattention, poor memory, and procrastination.  Despite the symptoms matching ADHD’s presentation, a psychiatrist could observe that instead the patient’s symptoms actually stem from anxiety, based on the specific and discerning criteria that comes with diagnosis.  This is a vital distinction that is paramount to the patient’s care, especially since in this case the most popular treatment plan for ADHD of stimulants would likely worsen the example patient’s anxiety.  That is why, if the resource is readily available, it is necessary for a person to nix self-diagnosis and instead look to professionals for help.  If you are having trouble finding help, below are some places to get you started:

Open Path Psychotherapy Collective: https://openpathcollective.org/open-path-staff/

United Way: https://www.unitedway.org/our-impact/focus/health

Find a Free Clinic: https://www.healthcentral.com/article/how-do-i-get-mental-health-services-with-no-money-and-no-insurance

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-TALK

Nikita Amin is a third year undergraduate student at the University of Virginia double majoring in Biology and English.  She hopes to go into the biological research sciences, and is passionate about making the academia she is passionate about more accessible.  This is one of her main focuses as a Senior Contributor at Today's Patient, writing articles that make scientific news more readily available to the general public.

September 2022  page 4