Prognosis and Diagnosis in Mental Health

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The term prognosis refers to making an educated guess about the expected outcome of any kind of health treatment, including mental health, in essence making a prediction of the process an individual may have to go through in order to heal, and the extent of healing expected to take place. Prognosis is a medical term used in treatment settings based on a medical model, such as when a teen is being treated for a mental health disorder like depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Why a Prognosis Is Important

A prognosis is based on a number of factors, including the type of problem your teen is struggling with, the duration of the problem, your teen's personal strengths and weaknesses, and the availability of support systems.

Parents may hear this term used in the early stages of therapy or upon entry into a treatment program. For example, a psychiatrist might say the prognosis for a specific teen suffering from depression is good since the teen is motivated to stick with a program of medication and psychotherapy and has strong family support.

Discussing the anticipated prognosis for a troubled teen is a way to look realistically at the question most parents worry about: Will my teen get better? Ask about the prognosis for your teen if this information is not initially provided.

Prognosis vs. Diagnosis

People often confuse the terms prognosis and diagnosis. The difference between the two is that while a prognosis is a guess as to the outcome of treatment, a diagnosis is actually identifying the problem and giving it a name, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder

Factors That Affect Prognosis

Different factors can affect the prognosis of each individual. These factors include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Medical and/or family history
  • How the disease or disorder is presenting
  • Response to treatment
  • Particular symptoms and how long they have been present
  • Whether or not there are other illnesses or conditions present
  • What treatment or treatments are being used

Mental Health in Teens

Because the body and the mind are so intricately connected, mental illness can take a toll on your teen's physical health too and the two can play off each other. That's why it's so important to get your teen help if you think there is a problem. Early intervention gives your teen the best chance of recovery.

Treating Mental Illnesses in Teens

Fortunately, mental illnesses are very treatable and manageable with medication, psychotherapy, education, and/or other resources. It's important to work closely with your mental health professional to create the best individual treatment plan possible for your teen.

Who Gets Mental Illnesses?

Mental illnesses can affect anyone of any age, gender, race, religion, income level or ethnicity. It is estimated that 1 in 6 children aged 2 to 8 years has a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.

Parents, Take Care of Yourselves Too

If you are the parent of a teen with some sort of mental illness, you know how difficult it can be to remain supportive, positive, and to have time to meet your own needs. Like the demonstration given on airplanes about putting your own oxygen mask on first so you can then help others, you need to make sure you are taking care of yourself so that you can help your teen to the best of your ability. Consider joining a support group for parents or getting individual therapy for yourself. Make sure you get out to do fun activities on a regular basis. Treat yourself kindly. 

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4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Aarons GA, Monn AR, Leslie LK, et al. Association Between Mental and Physical Health Problems in High-Risk Adolescents: A Longitudinal Study. J Adolesc Health. 2008;43(3):260-267. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2008.01.013

  3. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Treatments. Updated 2020.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data and Statistics on Children's Mental Health. Updated June 15, 2020.