Is There a Mental Illness Test?

In This Article

There isn’t a single test that can determine if you have a mental illness—or deem you 100 percent mentally healthy. Instead, a diagnosis of mental illness is made by a medical or mental health professional who has conducted a thorough evaluation.


In most cases, a physician will rule out physical health issues first. Some medical conditions can contribute to mental health problems, so lab tests or a complete physical exam may be necessary. Thyroid disease, for example, may cause someone to experience symptoms of depression. Treating the thyroid condition will help someone feel better emotionally.

Once physical health issues are ruled out, a physician may make a diagnosis of a mental illness. Physicians are qualified to diagnose mental illnesses, like major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Sometimes, they prescribe medication to treat the mental illness.

Quite often, however, physicians refer patients with a suspected mental illness to a mental health professional.

A physician may recommend a patient see a psychiatrist for medication management or a referral to a psychotherapist may be made so that a patient can begin talk therapy

Before starting treatment, a mental health professional who is making a diagnosis will interview the patient. Questions often focus on symptoms, history of symptoms, and difficulties with functioning. Family members may be interviewed as well. This is especially true when a child is being diagnosed with a mental illness or when an individual has poor insight or is an unreliable reporter.

The mental health professional will also observe the patient in the office. Some symptoms may be obvious in the interview, such as low energy or hyperactivity. A mental health professional will use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) to make a diagnosis. The DSM-5 outlines the criteria for each mental illness.

Psychological Tests

There may be times when psychological testing is necessary. Psychological tests are assessment tools that are administered by psychologists.

There are a variety of reasons that a patient may undergo psychological testing. Sometimes, testing is needed to help gain clarity about an individual’s diagnosis. Other tests may help identify an individual’s IQ or any learning disabilities. Psychological tests can also diagnose brain injuries and dementia.

Psychological tests may be administered via a computer—or they may be written or given orally. They may involve a series of questions where an individual is asked to provide information about how often they experience certain symptoms or they may be asked to choose statements that best describe how they think, feel, and behave.

Screening Tests

Screening tests don’t diagnose mental illness but they can signal when further evaluation is needed. Some physicians administer screening tests during annual physicals to look for signs that someone may be experiencing common mental illnesses, like anxiety or depression.

A screening test may be administered in the form of a simple questionnaire or a physician or nurse may run through a simple list of questions.

Screening tests may also be used by physicians or mental health professionals to determine whether further evaluation is needed surrounding a potential substance abuse issue. A few simple questions can help determine if someone engages in problematic drinking, for example.

There are also free screening tests online that you can access. Mental Health America’s website offers screening tools that can help determine if you should speak to your doctor about depression, anxiety, bipolar, psychosis, eating disorders, PTSD, and addiction.

There is also a screening tool for children. As the parent, you can fill out one questionnaire and also ask your child to fill out another.

The Mental Health America screening tools only take a couple of minutes to complete and you’ll get instant results. You’ll be given a score and given advice on how you might want to proceed.

For example, you might be advised to take another since conditions like anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand. The screening tool may suggest you should show the results to your physician to start a conversation about whether you might have a mental illness.

What to Do

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have a mental illness, talk to a physician. Or take an online screening tool test to learn more about your symptoms. Mental illnesses are treatable and early intervention can be key to helping you or a loved one best manage your symptoms.

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  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid). Published August 2016.

  2. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Understanding Your Diagnosis.

  3. American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA, American Psychiatric Association, 2013.

  4. Mental Health America. Take a Mental Health Test.