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 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 that 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 parent to question himself/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 the following:

  • What is wrong with my child?

  • Is my child abnormal?

  • Did I do something wrong in raising him/her 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.


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