What is the role of history and Mental Status Examination (MSE) in the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders?

Updated: Sep 24, 2020
  • Author: Jeffrey S Forrest, MD; Chief Editor: David Bienenfeld, MD  more...
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The history and Mental Status Examination (MSE) are the most important diagnostic tools a psychiatrist has to obtain information to make an accurate diagnosis. Although these important tools have been standardized in their own right, they remain primarily subjective measures that begin the moment the patient enters the office.

Pinel stated "To seize the true character of mental derangement in a given case, and to pronounce an infallible prognosis of the event, is often a task of particular delicacy, and requires the united exertion of great discernment, of extensive knowledge and of incorruptible integrity." This exemplifies the importance of the mental status examination to the practice of psychiatry. The clinician must pay close attention to the patient's presentation, including personal appearance, social interaction with office staff and others in the waiting area, and whether the patient is accompanied by someone (ie, to help determine if the patient has social support). These first few observations can provide important information about the patient that may not otherwise be revealed through interviewing or one-on-one conversation. [1]

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