Why Is There Difficulty In Diagnosing A Mental Illness
Caring for someone with a mental illness is a hard task, but made even harder when you do not have a specific diagnosis. Unfortunately, circumstances can sometimes prevent a correct diagnosis for several years. One of the problems a carer faces is trying to find out what type of mental illness they are dealing with. It can often be a very long period of time before a mental illness is diagnosed because so many symptoms can present the same and sometimes a person can suffer from several symptoms of several illnesses.
Also, there are other issues, such as the person that is ill may not, at the time of assessment, be able to communicate that well, and therefore the doctor cannot get a clear picture of what is happening. Because of this it may take several psychiatrist visits, or hospitalisations, to fully understand what exactly is happening. Another situation which arises is that, the person with the illness may be quite lucid during the interviews, so the doctor may have difficulty making any analysis at all of an illness until he views the symptoms at a later date. Because of these scenarios there are usually several assessments before doctors are prepared to label an illness. It also becomes very difficult to put the patient on the best medication when a psychiatrist cannot assess all the symptoms due to various circumstances. This is one of reasons why psychiatrists often have to change medications at a later date.
It is so important though, that you get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible so that everyone can start working on the process of getting life back on track. Once you have the diagnosis, try and get all the facts about the particular illness you are dealing with as soon as possible, because the more you understand what the sufferer is going through, the more you will be able to understand and set up a situation to cope. If you are a carer and have not had to deal with a mental illness before you are going to go through a huge learning curve in coping with this new situation and coming to terms with what the patient is suffering and experiencing.
One of the most important things to understand is that, what they are experiencing at the time of being unwell is very, very real to them. By understanding this it is possible to take a different attitude towards helping them, or coping with, what may seem to you, an unreal situation. Instead of arguing the point about reality, you can take a stance of 'agreeing to disagree'. This keeps the tension out of the situation for both of you and the problem can be discussed at a later date when the patient is in a better space. At first, a lot of what is going on may be perceived as plain bad behaviour, or an extremely introverted personality depending on the effects of the illness.
Once you have a diagnosis you then know what you are dealing with. On the one hand, a diagnosis can be a bit horrifying in itself, but on the other hand, it can explain a lot of what has been happening and that can be a relief. Fortunately, these days there is a lot of information on the internet, but remember, a psychiatric illness is not a 'black and white' illness, so don't expect the situation you are dealing with to present exactly as you read about. You may find the internet beneficial in finding out more about symptoms of the illness, and how to cope, but it is not a good idea to try and diagnose an illness from the internet. It needs to be stressed again, that often when someone is very unwell they DO NOT EVEN KNOW THEY ARE UNWELL. When we, as carers, are dealing with them, we are dealing from a rational point of view and they are dealing from their own reality, which quite probably will be nothing like our perspective.
Copyright (c) 2008 Kaye Dennan.
Kaye Dennan is an author and carer of 10 years of a son with schizophrenia. Coping as carer is not easy and for more information go to http://ebooksnowonline.com/family/mental-illness-coping-strategies/
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