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Rule-Out Defined

Mental Health Terms Used in Treating Troubled Teens


Definition:The term rule-out, or ruling-out, is used by mental health professionals in determining the most accurate diagnosis to explain the problems a teen is having. 

Accurate diagnosis in troubled teens can be difficult and initially several possible mental health disorders may seem to explain the teens’ emotional or behavioral problems.  Therefore the process of deciding is conducted in a logical, step-by-step manner that considers all the possibilities, and then narrows them down to the diagnosis (sometimes more than one) that most closely matches the symptoms.

For example, an extremely defiant teen may suffer from Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or Depression, or may be abusing drugs or alcohol. A defiant teen could also be heavily influenced by peers who are engaging in criminal activities. Or possibly the teen has been molested but not told anyone.

The mental health professional evaluating this teen is likely to say, “First we will rule- out depression, then consider other possibilies.”

Through this process, which is also done with medical conditions, the most accurate diagnosis is reached through a process of elimination; determining the best diagnostic fit by methodically discarding the ones that do not fit. 

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