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How to Get a Mental Health Diagnosis

When mental health issues begin interfering with your everyday life, seeking out a mental health diagnosis can help guide you toward effective treatment and therapy options to start you on the path to recovery. But how do you get a mental health diagnosis? When should you start looking for one? And what treatments are available to help?

Common Mental Health Conditions

The first step in understanding when to seek a professional mental health diagnosis is understanding some of the more common mental health problems people live with. While it’s never recommended to self-diagnose, knowing some of the basic components of common mental health conditions can help you recognize when to seek help.

Depression

Depression is an exceptionally common mental health problem. While there are several different diagnoses under the umbrella of depression, most share a common set of symptoms:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Interference with daily life

Determining your specific depression diagnosis depends on a number of other factors, such as when depression occurs, how long you’ve experienced depression, or if your depression is the direct result of a situational cause.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is related to depression, and many people will experience all the hallmark symptoms of a depressive episode when they have an underlying diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

But unlike depression, people with bipolar disorder will experience what are known as manic or hypomanic episodes. These are brief periods, usually lasting just a week or two, of elevated mood, confidence, and energy levels. This is often paired with a reduced need or desire for sleep. In severe cases, it may lead to hospitalisation.

Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are characterised by a recurring feeling of worry or fear about everyday situations. People living with anxiety may ruminate on everything that could possibly go wrong, feel intense fear over daily tasks, and experience physical symptoms — such as heart palpitations or shortness of breath — which can lead to significant impairment.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a disorder that happens after people have experienced or witnessed a traumatising event. The symptoms of PTSD can last for months or years if left untreated and include intrusive, avoidant, reactive, and mood-related symptoms.

This could include symptoms such as:

  • Flashbacks
  • Irritability
  • Hypervigilance, or constantly being on the lookout for danger
  • Inability to experience positive emotions
  • Nightmares
  • Trouble focusing or concentrating

PTSD is often debilitating and can lead to co-occurring mental health conditions if you don’t seek evidence-based treatment to strive toward recovery.

Substance Use Disorders

Substance use disorders are a category of mental health issues where people cannot cut down or quit using addictive substances without professional intervention. People experiencing a substance use disorder may experience symptoms like:

  • Craving their drug of choice
  • Growing tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop
  • A loss of interest in hobbies or activities outside of substance use
  • Difficulty maintaining responsibilities at work, home, or school
  • Worsening physical or mental health symptoms due to substance use

While most people with substance use disorders are unable to recover on their own, there are several evidence-based treatment methods that can help people achieve recovery.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is a developmental disorder that leads to severe challenges in productivity. People who live with ADHD have substantial difficulty focusing on tasks, staying organised, or remembering important events.

ADHD typically begins in childhood, but if this disorder isn’t diagnosed early, people can continue to face severe disruption in their adult lives.

Getting a Mental Health Diagnosis

In the U.K., there are two primary pathways to receiving a mental health diagnosis. If you’ve noticed any of the symptoms above and are starting to experience significant disruption in your everyday life, receiving a mental health diagnosis is the first step to getting effective therapies and treatments that can help you start the path to recovery.

Through the NHS

Seeking a diagnosis through the National Health Service is a common way to start the path to receiving quality mental health treatment. This process typically begins by contacting your general practitioner, who can speak to you about mental health concerns and conduct a preliminary assessment.

If your GP determines that you qualify, they can recommend you to specialist mental health services in the NHS. These services can provide you with a more detailed assessment and diagnosis procedure and can ultimately provide a number of evidence-based mental health treatment options.

The main challenges that people face with NHS services are dealing with long wait times, navigating an overburdened mental health system, and having to continue dealing with their mental health challenges while waiting to receive care.

While this is a reasonable trade-off for some people, most people seeking treatment feel as though they need help right now and are discouraged by the perpetual wait to receive care.

Private Healthcare Providers

Private healthcare providers like APN London are the alternative to seeking a diagnosis through the NHS. At APN London, every step of your mental health treatment plan is streamlined to give you rapid access to innovative and effective treatment methods to help you start feeling better as soon as possible.

First, you don’t need to check in with your general practitioner to start treatment at APN London. If you feel like your mental health problems are starting to interfere with your life, then you can self-refer to APN London for a mental health assessment and diagnosis from a trained mental health specialist.

As soon as your assessment is completed and you’ve received a diagnosis, you’re eligible to begin treatment straight away. Unlike the NHS, at APN London, you have a wide range of traditional and innovative treatment options to choose from. You aren’t placed into treatment but instead collaborate with our team of providers to find the treatment options that will work best for you.

Traditional Mental Health Treatments

Traditionally, mental health treatment options have fallen into one of two categories: talk therapy and psychotropic medications. These treatment options have been studied for decades and can be used to help people achieve recovery from a wide range of mental health concerns.

Talk Therapy

There are a number of talk therapy approaches used in the treatment of common mental health challenges. Some of the more common approaches used include:

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy
  • Dialectical behaviour therapy
  • Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing
  • Motivational interviewing

While each of these styles of therapy takes a unique approach to helping people with their mental health concerns, all of them are evidence-based approaches for different diagnoses.

Some can help you change the way you think, feel, and behave through manualized treatment methods. Others encourage you to develop your own recovery plan and help you maintain the motivation to achieve your goals.

Regardless, each will provide you with tools and coping mechanisms to make substantial progress in overcoming a number of mental health conditions.

Psychotropic Medications

Another common approach to treating mental health conditions is the use of psychotropic medications. Different medications exist for this purpose — from antidepressants to anxiolytics to mood-stabilising drugs.

For some, medication alone is enough to provide substantial improvement in symptoms. However, determining which medications are right for you, at what dose, and at what time is of critical importance and typically requires the help of a trained psychiatrist.

With medication management, a psychiatrist works with you directly to help you find the right treatment plan for you. Your psychiatrist will monitor your progress over time, check in with you on how your medications are working, and help make adjustments if you’re not seeing the benefits you hoped for.

Combined Treatment

While each approach is effective, talk therapy and psychotropic medications can have even greater effects when they are combined with one another. Decades of research have shown that combined treatment produces better outcomes and helps more people than a single intervention in isolation.

What to Do if Traditional Interventions Aren’t Working

As effective as talk therapy and medications are, they don’t always work for everyone. Some people may not experience any benefit at all, while others find that the degree of improvement they experience isn’t enough to restore their overall quality of life.

Thankfully, there are new and innovative treatment options that can provide hope, even for people with treatment-resistant mental health challenges.

Innovative Treatments at APN London

APN London uses a variety of cutting-edge treatment interventions and therapies to help people with a wide range of mental health diagnoses. These treatments can often be used in combination with talk therapy or medication, or they can be used as a treatment for people seeking help for the first time.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) uses the findings from neuroscience for highly localised and direct treatment interventions. dTMS starts with a personalised brain scan, which identifies regions of the brain that are often underactive in certain mental health diagnoses.

Brief electromagnetic impulses are sent deep into these brain regions with a specialised helmet, stimulating activity and forging new neural pathways. dTMS has been found to be a highly efficacious treatment for disorders such as depression and anxiety and can create lasting brain changes for long-term symptom relief.

Ketamine-Assisted Healing

Ketamine is a dissociative psychedelic that has been used in medicine for decades, though it has only recently shown promise as a mental health treatment. It works as a therapy accelerator — helping people to make dramatic breakthroughs in one-on-one therapy after just a single ketamine-assisted healing session and creating durable mental health improvements.

A ketamine-assisted healing session takes place at our specialised treatment facility, where you will be under the direct care of our medical team and a specially trained therapist.

Your therapist will help guide you through the ketamine experience, help you delve into the underlying causes and conditions of your mental health challenges, and follow your progress after treatment.

Lifestyle Psychiatry

A number of mental health challenges can be improved through lifestyle changes, such as exercise, healthy sleep habits, or proper nutrition. However, implementing and sustaining these changes can be extremely difficult, especially when you are trying to do so on your own.

Lifestyle psychiatry pairs you with an integrative health team to help you build and maintain these healthy lifestyle changes. You’ll work directly with psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to provide a well-rounded and comprehensive mental health treatment plan.

Start Treatment at APN London

Whether you’re looking to get a formal mental health diagnosis or ready to start treatment, the team at APN London is here to help. Our comprehensive mental health treatment centre is equipped with several innovative and conventional treatment methods to help you start the path to healing and can help you find the treatment options that work best for you.

To get started, call our team at 0203 984 7699 or by filling out our confidential online contact form.

References

  • Cuijpers, Pim, et al. “A Meta-Analysis of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy for Adult Depression, Alone and in Comparison with Other Treatments.” The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 2013, https://doi.org/10.1177/070674371305800702. Accessed 28 Jan. 2024.
  • Gourgouvelis, Joanne et al. “Exercise Leads to Better Clinical Outcomes in Those Receiving Medication Plus Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Major Depressive Disorder.” Frontiers in psychiatry vol. 9 37. 6 Mar. 2018, doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00037
  • Smith-Apeldoorn, Sanne Y et al. “The antidepressant effect and safety of non-intranasal esketamine: A systematic review.” Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England) vol. 36,5 (2022): 531-544. doi:10.1177/02698811221084055