When and Why to Seek a Second Opinion for Your Mental Health Diagnosis and Treatment

More than one in five Americans lives with a mental health issue. This is just an estimate, as many of those who are suffering are not properly diagnosed. Even more people with metal health conditions never receive the care that they need. In other cases, someone might have received a diagnosis, but that diagnosis may be incorrect, sending them on the wrong treatment path.

Dr. Matthew Goldenberg is a board certified psychiatrist with the training and experience to provide a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. He understands that your mental health is an incredibly important piece of your overall wellness, and his goal is to make sure you are receiving the right help for your unique symptoms and goals. Dr. Goldenberg specializes in a wide range of mental health issues, from depression and anxiety to substance use disorders and trauma.

Dr. Goldenberg often works with patients who are struggling with a mental health issue and so far are not sure they are getting the right care. They may have been misdiagnosed in the past. Or maybe they were started on medication and they are not sure they still need them. Or maybe, they feel like their treatment is not working anymore. If you are in a similar situation, read on to learn why you are right to be concerned and why a second opinion is important.

Getting to the bottom of your mental health struggles

Diagnosing a mental health issue can be difficult for a number of reasons, such as:

No definitive tests

There is no single test that can confirm or rule out mental health issues. In other words, a simple blood test cannot tell us whether you have major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. There is no x-ray to determine if you have OCD or panic disorder. 

Instead, mental health professionals typically use established diagnostic criteria that are helpful in setting up guidelines for mental health diagnoses. As specific as these criteria are, they are still just guidelines, and every patient has a unique history, a unique story, and individual life experiences that contribute to their symptoms. Not everyone comes to their doctor with symptoms that come right out of the textbook. 

Dr. Goldenberg feels that it is important to understand the person and their biological, psychological and social experiences and history to understand the whole person and not just if they meet certain diagnostic criteria. Dr. Goldenberg also believes that while each person has a genetic predisposition, life experiences, external stressors and one's unique history, greatly influence how a mental health issue may or may not manifest itself.

For example, perhaps you were raised in a family that did not tolerate weakness, so you were raised to hide vulnerability, internalize your emotions and to put on a brave face. As a result, you may experience trauma and despite suffering, you naturally hide it well. On the other hand, someone who experiences trauma and was raised in an emotionally expressive and/or volatile household may present with an extremely different set of symptoms and yet may actually have a very similar diagnosis. These circumstances can influence how you process mental health issues in adulthood. Making an accurate diagnosis is the first step in getting the appropriate and most beneficial treatment. 

Different types of the same issue

Another hurdle when it comes to diagnosing mental health issues is that there are many degrees and forms of mental health issues. For example, anxiety, which affects about 30% of adults at some point in their lives, is not just one problem but a host separate diagnoses that include:

And the list goes on. A well trained and experienced psychiatrist can help to differentiate your specific diagnosis from others and adjust your treatment plan accordingly. 

Many gray areas

Lastly, diagnosing mental health issues is often difficult and nuanced because there are many gray areas. For example, a person may not meet the full diagnostic criteria for a specific condition like bipolar disorder. However, they may still cycle through episodes, year after year, and need help to get their mood lability and instability under control. A second opinion could be helpful to assure the correct diagnosis is made, so that adjustments can be made to the treatment plan if initial efforts have not led to the desired mood stability.  

Getting a second opinion

For the reasons and situations outlined above, Dr. Goldenberg feels that it is important that you get a second opinion when it comes to your mental health diagnosis. This is not a judgment of the previous health professional but an acknowledgment that another set of eyes on the matter may spot something the other provider missed. 

Sometimes a second opinion can confirm you are on the right track. Sometimes it can help you and your current team adjust course. Other times it may confirm your suspicions that a new psychiatrist may be needed to help you better reach your goals. A second opinion should be a consultation, meaning you leave with more information and a better sense of what direction to go. However, there is no obligation to make any changes, unless you are fully comfortable in doing so. 

For an expert second opinion of your mental health diagnosis, please schedule a free, 10-minute phone call with Dr. Goldenberg, who evaluates and treats patients in both California and Alaska. Simply click here to set that up.

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