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Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation for Children

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/or environmental conditions that cause them to act disruptive, rebellious, or sad. This may include, but is not limited to, problems with relationships with friends and/or family members, school, sleeping, eating, substance abuse, emotional expression, development, coping, attentiveness, and responsiveness. It's 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:

  • Description of behaviors present (for example, 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 or symptoms as related to:

    • School performance

    • Relationships and interactions with others (for example, parents, siblings, classmates, or 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:

    • Blood tests

    • Radiology studies to look for abnormalities, especially in the brain

    • Educational assessments

    • Speech and language assessments

    • Psychological assessments

A parent's concerns when a child is being evaluated

It's natural, and quite common, for a parent to question himself or herself 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:

  • What's wrong with my child?

  • Is my child abnormal?

  • Did I do something wrong in raising them 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 1, 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 doctor or mental health practitioner will address your questions and provide reassurance by working with you to establish long-term and short-term treatment goals for your child.

Last Reviewed Date: 09/08/2013
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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