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Psychiatric disorders are common in medical practice and may present either as a primary disorder or as a comorbid condition. The prevalence of mental or substance use disorders in the United States is ~30%, but only one-third of affected individuals are currently receiving treatment. Global burden of disease statistics indicates that 4 of the 10 most important causes of morbidity and attendant health care costs worldwide are psychiatric in origin.

Changes in health care delivery underscore the need for primary care physicians to assume responsibility for the initial diagnosis and treatment of the most common mental disorders. Prompt diagnosis is essential to ensure that patients have access to appropriate medical services and to maximize the clinical outcome. Validated patient-based questionnaires have been developed that systematically probe for signs and symptoms associated with the most prevalent psychiatric diagnoses and guide the clinician into targeted assessment. The Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders (PRIME-MD; and a self-report form, the Patient Health Questionnaire) and the Symptom-Driven Diagnostic System for Primary Care (SDDS-PC) are inventories that require only 10 min to complete and link patient responses to the formal diagnostic criteria of anxiety, mood, somatoform, and eating disorders and to alcohol abuse or dependence.

A physician who refers patients to a psychiatrist should know not only when doing so is appropriate but also how to refer because societal misconceptions and the stigma of mental illness impede the process. Primary care physicians should base referrals to a psychiatrist on the presence of signs and symptoms of a mental disorder and not simply on the absence of a physical explanation for a patient’s complaint. The physician should discuss with the patient the reasons for requesting the referral or consultation and provide reassurance that he or she will continue to provide medical care and work collaboratively with the mental health professional. Consultation with a psychiatrist or transfer of care is appropriate when physicians encounter evidence of psychotic symptoms, mania, severe depression, or anxiety; symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); suicidal or homicidal preoccupation; or a failure to respond to first-order treatment. This chapter reviews the clinical assessment and treatment of some of the most common mental disorders presenting in primary care and is based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the framework for categorizing psychiatric illness used in the United States. Eating disorders are discussed later in this chapter, and the biology of psychiatric and addictive disorders is discussed in Chap. 443.


image The DSM-5 and the tenth revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), which is used more commonly worldwide, have taken somewhat differing approaches to the diagnosis of mental illness, but considerable effort has been expended to provide an operational translation between the two nosologies. Both systems are in essence purely descriptive and emphasize clinical pragmatism, in distinction to ...

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