Psychiatric history taking

A Guide to taking a Psychiatric History

Psychiatric History can split into three main things; Diagnostic

To gain a biopsychosocial understanding of the patient’s problem

Therapeutic & psycho-educational

The basic components of a Psychiatric History:


History of Presenting Complaint

Systems Review

Past Psychiatric History

Past Medical History

Family History

Personal History




Drug & Alcohol


Pre-morbid Personality

The key to psychiatric assessment is a comprehensive history & mental state examination.

Current Symptoms: onset, stressors, duration & course

Sleep: currently, changes over time

Appetite: normal / increased / decreased

Memory & concentration changes

Current Mood

Classify: Anxious? Depressed? Obsessional? Psychotic?

Screen for relevant historical events.

Details of any help-seeking behaviour.

Important to go through a check-list of other Psychiatric Symptoms, noting the positive & negative findings.

It can also be useful to rule out any organic causes of the patient’s presentation.

Past Psychiatric History

Suicide attempts

Treatments: medication, psychotherapy,

Adverse reactions or events due to treatments

Past medical history is useful to ascertain the general health of the patient.

Chronic medical conditions can often cause a decrease in the quality of life for that individual, which can manifest as psychiatric symptoms.

Prior hospitalizations, surgeries.

Medication sensitivities and current medicatioNS.

Family History as many psychiatric disorders have a genetic component.

Mapping out the patient’s life in a longitudinal manner is helpful.

Noting developmental milestones and family environment.




Relationships-past & current)? Marriage, Pregnancies

Current life situation.

Drug & Alcohol History

Forensic history

Premorbid Personality

Attitudes to others and to self.

Predominant mood

Hobbies & interests

Reactions to stress

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