Taking a general medical history in psychiatry

by Dr Niraj Arora and Dr Michael Phelan


Last reviewed: January 2013


Mental health service users have highlighted the lack of physical health care as a priority.


Psychiatrists are well placed to help their patients with general ill health and undiagnosed physical illness to improve quality of life and reduce premature death.


Taking a relevant and comprehensive medical history alongside a psychiatric history is a vital starting point to ensure the physical health needs of people with mental illness are met.


This module is an introductory guide to medical history taking within the constraints of routine psychiatric care, looking at:


  • reasons why physical healthcare in patients with mental illness should be given priority


  • the practicalities of an interview


  • effective communication skills


  • core items in physical health reviews of psychiatric patients


  • common and important physical illnesses and lifestyles that have particular relevance for mental illness


  • aspects of history taking that require more detail for specific conditions.


Start the module


Please note: This module was last reviewed in 2013. Please be aware when completing the module that some of the guidance may have changed.


If you are interested in updating this material, please contact us.


If you like this module, you may also be interested in:


Physical examination in psychiatric practice: Part 1 and Part 2 by Dr Gill Garden


Physical healthcare in severe mental illness by Dr Steve Brown


Essentials of Physical Health in Psychiatry (book from RCPsych Publications)



Download take-home notes to print and annotateDownload take-home notes to print and annotate


This module is aimed at junior grade mental health professionals or those wishing to refresh the knowledge gained at medical school.


© 2020 Royal College of Psychiatrists