Mental Health Nursing Diagnosis & Care Plan

Mental health is an essential aspect of overall health and involves a person’s psychological, emotional, and social well-being. It affects the way a person feels, thinks, and acts and determines how a person relates to others, handles stress, and makes decisions. 

Mental health problems or illnesses can arise anytime throughout a person’s life. Various factors give rise to mental health illnesses including biological factors like genes, environmental factors such as toxins, alcohol, and drugs, family history of mental health illnesses, and life experiences like abuse or trauma. 

Signs and symptoms of mental health problems include:

  • Sadness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Excessive fear
  • Excessive guilt
  • Withdrawal from society
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Detachment from reality
  • Inability to cope with problems
  • Trouble relating to other people or situations

Fortunately, discussions surrounding mental health are becoming more common and resources are readily available to manage mental health disorders.

The Nursing Process

Physical assessments, laboratory tests like thyroid tests and drug or alcohol screening, and psychological evaluations are conducted to help diagnose or rule out mental health problems. 

While it can be difficult to determine the type of mental health problem a person has, an accurate diagnosis will help guide the most appropriate treatment for the patient. 

Medications like antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic drugs are prescribed to help improve symptoms. Psychotherapy, brain-stimulation treatments, and inpatient treatment programs may also be indicated. 

Nurses, regardless of specialty, care for patients who display signs of or are at risk of developing mental health problems. Nurses are instrumental in the assessment, management, education, and collaboration of a patient’s mental health.

Nursing Care Plans Related to Mental Health Disorders

Disturbed Thought Processes Care Plan

Mental health problems affect a person’s mood, thoughts, and behavior. Certain mental health disorders may result in disturbed thought processes where the patient experiences alterations in cognition, perception, reasoning, and problem-solving, interfering with their daily life.

Nursing Diagnosis: Disturbed Thought Processes

Related to:

  • Altered self-concept
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Low self-esteem
  • Psychological barriers
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Stressors
  • Substance misuse
  • Unaddressed trauma 
  • Isolation

As evidenced by:

  • Absence of eye contact
  • Inaccurate interpretation of stimuli (external or internal)
  • Decreased willingness to participate in social interactions
  • Difficulty comprehending communication
  • Inappropriate social behavior
  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Inappropriate verbalization
  • Speech abnormalities
  • Hallucinations/delusions
  • Distractibility
  • Suspiciousness

Expected Outcomes:

  • The patient will maintain reality orientation and communicate and interact with other people according to social norms
  • The patient will recognize and implement strategies to manage hallucinations/delusions

Disturbed Thought Processes Assessment

1. Assess the patient’s past medical history and identify factors present.
Proper assessment of the patient’s medical history and factors contributing to the patient’s condition is important to help plan the best treatment regimen. Conditions such as dementia, anoxic brain injuries, and schizophrenia may cause disturbed thought processes and all have very different treatments.

2. Assess and review laboratory values.
Mental health problems can be caused by biochemical imbalances. Abnormal laboratory values like hypokalemia, anemia, signs of infection, or metabolic alkalosis can indicate causative factors of the patient’s condition.

3. Assess the patient’s cognitive ability.
This will help determine the patient’s ability to participate in the plan of care and treatment regimen.

Disturbed Thought Processes Interventions

1. Reorient the patient to person, place, and time as necessary.
When a patient is unable to maintain reality orientation, it can cause anxiety or worsening confusion. Consistent reorientation allows the patient to develop a sense of control and builds a trusting relationship with the healthcare provider.

2. Provide safety measures as needed.
It is always important to consider the patient’s safety at all times since mental health problems can affect the patient’s reactions to external stimuli. Safety measures include side rails, close supervision, or seizure precautions as indicated.

3. Schedule structured tasks with adequate rest periods.
This will help provide adequate stimulation and appropriate treatment interventions while allowing the patient to rest to reduce fatigue.

4. Maintain a quiet and calm environment and approach the patient slowly and calmly.
Patients with disturbed thought processes may respond with exaggerated or aggressive behaviors if overstimulated.

5. Do not challenge or accept illogical thinking.
Patients who express delusions should not have their reality challenged, but the nurse can offer understanding of what the patient is experiencing while maintaining reality.

6. Teach how to stop negative thinking.
Teach the patient strategies such as stating “stop!” or a loud noise such as clapping to interrupt unwanted thoughts.


Ineffective Coping Care Plan 

Patients suffering from mental health disorders may fail to effectively deal with existing problems due to unmanaged stress, poor coping skills, or other life pressures.

Nursing Diagnosis: Ineffective Coping

Related to:

  • Inadequate confidence in the ability to deal with a situation
  • Inadequate sense of control
  • Inadequate social support
  • Ineffective tension release strategies
  • Inadequate resources

As evidenced by:

  • Altered attention
  • Altered communication pattern
  • Destructive behaviors
  • Difficulty organizing information
  • Inability to ask for help
  • Lack of goal-directed behavior
  • Inadequate follow-through
  • Inadequate problem-solving skills
  • Substance abuse

Expected Outcomes:

  • The patient will demonstrate effective coping when faced with unfavorable situations
  • The patient will verbalize confidence in dealing with psychosocial issues

Ineffective Coping Assessment

1. Assess history of coping.
The nurse can first assess how the patient has coped in the past with difficult situations. The patient may not be equipped with the necessary skills and strategies to cope effectively.

2. Assess for possible causes of ineffective coping.
Lack of problem-solving skills, poor self-concept, lack of social support, or stressors such as finances, living environment, or career pressures will each require their own specific strategies.

3. Assess for destructive habits.
Ineffective coping may be made worse by the use of drugs, alcohol, overeating, sexual behavior, smoking, and more that require treatment.

Ineffective Coping Interventions

1. Establish trust and a therapeutic relationship with the patient.
An unbiased attitude establishes trust. An open and patient tone will reduce feelings of isolation and ultimately facilitate coping.

2. Assist the patient in setting realistic goals.
Patients may feel helpless in goal-setting especially if they never reach goals. Instruct the patient on how to set short, manageable goals.

3. Allow the patient to express their fears, feelings, concerns, and expectations.
Verbalization of perceived or actual threats can help reduce anxiety and promote open communication with the patient. These should be met without judgment from the healthcare team.

4. Support relaxation and leisure activities.
Coping with stress, grief, or other mental health issues requires time for hobbies, exercise, and distraction. Remind the patient to take time to read, write, walk, and enjoy activities.

5. Encourage therapy and counseling.
Mental health professionals can help the patient learn and implement healthy coping mechanisms.


Chronic Low Self-esteem Care Plan 

Chronic low self-esteem refers to a long-standing negative perception of self-worth and personal abilities. Low self-esteem may be experienced by patients with various mental health disorders such as anxiety disorders, eating disorders, major depressive disorders, and alcohol and drug abuse.

Nursing Diagnosis: Chronic Low Self-esteem

Related to:

  • Disturbed body image
  • Fear of rejection
  • Inadequate social support
  • Ineffective communication skills
  • Insufficient approval from others
  • Low self-efficacy
  • Abandonment
  • Domestic abuse

As evidenced by:

  • Depressive symptoms
  • Excessive shame or guilt
  • Constant seeking of reassurance
  • Hopelessness
  • Insomnia
  • Loneliness
  • Passive behavior
  • Overly-conforming behaviors
  • Reduced eye contact
  • Rejects positive feedback
  • Reports repeated failures
  • Self-negating verbalizations

Expected Outcomes:

  • The patient will verbalize an increased sense of self-worth
  • The patient will demonstrate behaviors of improved self-esteem such as eye contact, appropriate physical appearance, posture, and participation in conversations

Chronic Low Self-esteem Assessment

1. Assess the patient’s past and current achievements.
This shows the patient a more realistic view of his or her strengths and capabilities. Patients with mental health conditions may lose sight of their past accomplishments and tend to exhibit low self-esteem.

2. Assess how the patient views themselves.
Assess for negative self-talk and exaggerated feelings of one’s self. The goal isn’t to reject the patient’s feelings but to gain insight into their view of themself.

3. Assess support systems.
A lack of support can contribute to poor self-worth. A present support system that is degrading or harmful to the patient’s self-esteem may require intervention.

4. Assess for suicidal ideation.
Patients with chronic low self-esteem may have suicidal thoughts or a plan. Ask directly if the patient is thinking of killing or harming themselves.

Chronic Low Self-esteem Interventions

1. Focus on what can be controlled.
A chronic sense of failure may need to be overcome. The patient may feel that their every action or entire life is a failure. Attempt to have the patient focus only on what can be controlled, and that what may be deemed a “failure” does not have to be tied with one’s sense of self.

2. Apply active listening and open-ended questions.
Therapeutic communication is an important aspect of providing care and support to patients suffering from mental health problems. Communication methods like active listening and using open-ended questions enable the patient to verbalize interests, worries, concerns, and thoughts without interruption.

3. Provide positive feedback and reinforcement.
Continuous positive feedback and support promote the patient’s self-esteem and self-worth. In time, the patient will hopefully begin to believe and be a source of their own positive feedback.

4. Teach the patient to recognize and shut down negative self-talk.
Recognition of negative thoughts enables the patient to develop new ways of coping. The patient can be taught to replace negative ideas and beliefs with positive affirmations.


References and Sources

  1. About Mental Health Problems. Mental Health Foundation. 2022. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/about-mental-health-problems
  2. Mental Disorders. World Health Organization. 2022. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-disorders
  3. Moitra M, Santomauro D, Collins PY, Vos T, Whiteford H, et al. (2022) The global gap in treatment coverage for major depressive disorder in 84 countries from 2000–2019: A systematic review and Bayesian meta-regression analysis. PLOS Medicine 19(2): e1003901. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003901
  4. Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing Concepts of Care and Evidence-Based Practice. 8th Edition. Mary C. Townsend, DSN, PMHCNS-BC. 2015. FA Davis Company.
  5. What is Mental Health? MentalHealth.gov. Last Updated: 02/28/2022. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health
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Maegan Wagner, BSN, RN, CCM

Maegan Wagner is registered nurse with over 10 years of healthcare experience. She earned her BSN at Western Governors University. Her nursing career has led her through many different specialties including inpatient acute care, hospice, home health, case management, travel nursing, and telehealth, but her passion lies in educating through writing for other healthcare professionals and the general public.