What Is The MMPI Test And What Does It Say About You?

Updated November 03, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Nicole Gaines, LPC

Learn More About Your Personality & Behaviors

Source: rawpixel.com

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, commonly known as the MMPI test, is a psychological exam that looks at your personality traits and psychopathology to determine if you have any mental health disorders. With two prior versions available (the MMPI-2 and the MMPI-2-RF), this test is a long-form, true/false test that helps you find out more about yourself. While doctors typically use it to test patients who are suspected of having mental health disorders, it has also been used in other settings, including professional evaluations and legal settings—most often as a means of either proving or disproving a client’s claims that they (or someone else) should not be held responsible for their actions.

The Types of the MMPI Test

There are three MMPI tests: the MMPI-2, MMPI-2-RF, and the MMPI-A (this version of the test is titled Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-Adolescent). Two (MMPI-2 and MMPI-2-RF) are primarily used for adults (18 years and older), and one (MMPI-A) is intended only for teenagers. The MMPI-2 is a 567 question, true/false test. Although it's the older version of the test, it's still the most commonly known and used version because it has a large base of research and more psychologists are familiar with it. However, some psychiatrists have switched to the newer version. The validity scales and test items of all versions have been thoroughly vetted and carefully developed to ensure that they can still deliver accurate results, even in response inconsistency.

The MMPI-2-RF is a shorter test, first published in 2008. It has 338 true/false questions. Because it's 200 questions shorter, it takes less time to fill out. Some psychiatrists have started using this process rather than the older one because it is considered a more advanced version. With more incoming research, it's likely that additional psychiatrists will start to look at this test as a better version and will start to use it more frequently; however, the validity scales were adjusted in the test revision completed in the 1980s (the form called MMPI-2), continued revisions identify unnecessary or outdated questions to streamline the process and make it more bearable for test-takers and givers, alike.

Finally, the MMPI-A is used exclusively with teenagers. With this test, psychiatrists can find out more about a child and start a treatment plan. This test is used in conjunction with other methods to help form an accurate and thorough diagnosis. This form (MMPI-A) differs from the original test in that it focuses primarily on the clinical scales and validity scales and administers only the first 350 questions of the test. The original scale was developed to measure an adult’s mental health. Adolescents do not typically hold the same experiences and responsibilities as adults, necessitating changes and rearranging in the test. Even so, according to the University of Minnesota Press, there is still some danger of adolescents experiencing difficulty answering the questions on the test, which could make them score higher or lower than is accurate. For this reason, the test is best used as a general guide while implementing additional forms of evaluation. 

What You'll Learn

Different aspects of human mental health and behavior are tested with the MMPI-2 test. Ten clinical scales will assess ten categories of abnormal behavior and use four validity scales that help determine if answers are truthful and how the individual feels about the test-taking process in the first place. All of this adds up to a more accurate understanding of the individual's personality and whether or not the test can be taken accurately as written or if it needs to be adjusted because of the validity scales’ scoring.

Hypochondriasis

The first thing tested is hypochondriasis, which evaluates vague or nonspecific complaints about the body's functioning. These are focused on the abdomen and back and tend to persist despite having negative medical tests. In this test, which consists of 32 items, the monitoring focuses on poor physical health and gastrointestinal problems. This is an important part of the test items, as many mental health disorders involve physical symptoms.

Depression

Scale 2 (depression) measures an individual’s current mental health. Also called the depression scale, this section consists of 57 items and measures clinical depression within the tested individual. This is done by looking at the individual's morale, a lack of hope in the future, and general dissatisfaction that an individual may have with their life situation.

Source: rawpixel.com

Hysteria

This scale consists of 60 items. With this scale, there are five aspects monitored: shyness, cynicism, neuroticism, poor physical health, and headaches. Because the scale was developed to test mental health as a whole, it is important to identify an individual’s preference toward high scores in the hysteria section, as this could indicate the presence of a host of issues, including anxiety and paranoia, which will be evaluated later in the test.

Psychopathic Deviate

Here, the test items look at the type of social maladjustment the individual might have and whether they have strong pleasant experiences. It will also look at complaints or problems the individual has with family and other authority figures and their level of boredom, social alienation, and self-alienation. There are 50 total questions in this section. This test can cause some debate; after all, some people associate their willingness to or interest in carrying on relationships with others with factors outside of mental health, ranging from extreme introversion to Myers-Briggs typing to simple preference. Nevertheless, this scale measures an individual’s ability to get along and continually communicate and socialize with others.

Masculinity/Femininity

With 56 items on this test section, this scale looks at activity versus passivity, personal sensitivity, interests, hobbies, and aesthetic preferences. In general, it looks at the rigidity of the individual's conformity to stereotypes for masculine or feminine activities and roles. This scale was originally developed as part of the original University of Minnesota MMPI and came under some fire for its adherence to stereotypes. It has since been re-evaluated and altered to reflect current understandings of gender, mental health, and behavior more accurately, as evidenced by the acknowledgment of non-gendered norms via the University Of Minnesota Press.

Paranoia

At 40 items, this is one of the shortest sections. It gauges interpersonal sensitivity, suspiciousness, and even the morality of self-righteousness that an individual has. This section of the questionnaire is a little different because it seeks to trip up those who may have paranoid tendencies by offering items that acknowledge paranoid thoughts or delusional thoughts. This scale was designed to detect people with the symptoms of paranoia, including suspiciousness, feelings of persecution, grandiose self-concepts, excessive sensitivity, and rigid attitudes.

Psychasthenia

With this scale, you have 48 items that will test the inability of an individual to resist a specific type of action or thought even if they may be maladaptive. It looks at abnormal fears, difficulty in concentration, guilty feelings, and thoughts or self-criticisms in its view of obsessive-compulsive behaviors. This means this scale is designed to assess inordinate doubts, compulsions, obsessions, and unreasonable fears. Consequently, high scores in this area of the test items could indicate the presence of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or another compulsive disorder.

Schizophrenia

At 78 items, this is the longest section of the test and evaluates strange thought processes and peculiar perceptions, poor relationships with one’s family, problems with concentration and impulse control, social alienation, disturbing questions of self-worth and self-identity, and sexual difficulties, including lack of deep interests. This portion of the test also controls for response inconsistency to deliver the most accurate evaluation of an individual’s mental health.

Hypomania

Next is a 46-item section that looks at more mild degrees of elated but unstable moods, psychomotor excitement, flighty thoughts, ideas and brief periods of depression, and overactivity in general, including irritability,  accelerated speech, and motor activity, and egocentricity. It does this by looking at behavior and cognitive functions.

Social Introversion

Finally, there's a 69-item section that looks at how introverted or extroverted the individual is. It looks at limited social skills (withdrawal from social contacts and responsibilities), preference for being alone versus with others, and whether the individual does well with a group of friends or not.

What Validity Scores Look For

Of course, no test that's taken entirely on your own could be considered an objective scale of your capabilities and thoughts. People will often attempt to lie, fib, or otherwise tweak the test to fit their interests or desires for the outcome. That's why there are validity sections for the test as well. There are four different parts to this section of the test, and each one is important in making sure that the individual is truthful or to what degree they may not be truthful.

  • This 15-question section looks at outright lies that the individual does tell or is willing to tell. That way, it's possible to determine whether or not the individual has lied throughout the rest of the test and create a more accurate picture of the individual.
  • The F scale is made up of 60 items. It looks at unusual or atypical test answers, like if an individual were to answer in a pattern or if too many answers seem to contradict each other. The F scale is utilized to discover and look into over-reporting. For someone to have scored high during the assessment, it may be that such a person was answering questions randomly or experiencing severe psychological distress (these two conditions may make someone appear (based on the result) worse than they are).
  • Back F. This section looks at the same things as the F scale and makes sure that the second half of the test is answered properly. It looks at whether answers contradict each other or any pattern to the answers that make the test invalid.
  • Finally, the K scale consists of 30 items and looks at self-control, interpersonal relationships, and family relationships. When all of these are scored, this test section can recognize potential psychopathology for those who may fall into normal ranges in other test areas.

Taking the First Steps Towards Recovery

Suppose you believe you are living with a mental disorder. In that case, you must reach out for help as soon as possible to prevent personal injury or the possibility of mental illness increasing and growing overwhelming or becoming more difficult to handle. However, there are some things you can do beforehand to improve your chances of success and to help carry you through the process. Here are a few important things to do before reaching out.

Learn More about Your Mental Illness

Conquering a mental illness begins with fully understanding it. Even if you are not sure what you may be dealing with yet, you can learn more about common mental health symptoms and what you can do to start combating their detrimental effects on your health. Learn as much as you can about mental health and what it entails. This could involve learning more about your personality type, using the Myers-Briggs test or other forms of personality typing, as well as identifying any physical symptoms of mental illness you may be exhibiting, such as chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, or regular headaches.

Learn More About Your Personality & Behaviors

Source: rawpixel.com

Start Taking Care of Yourself

Many people living with mental illness find that stepping up their self-care routine and making sure they’re living a healthy lifestyle can improve their symptoms and overall mental well-being. From getting enough sleep to eating the right diet to journaling, there are plenty of exercises out there that will allow you to maintain your health to better battle your illness. This is another way personality typing systems such as Myers-Briggs can help: learning your unique way of thinking, communicating, and feeling can help you more thoroughly understand what you might need from yourself, your surroundings, and your relationships.

The Importance of Speaking with a Mental Health Professional

When it is completed, mental health professionals will look at the test and form a more comprehensive understanding or diagnosis of the patient in question. Although the MMPI was originally developed to act as a diagnostic tool, it's important to note that this test alone can't form a complete picture of an individual. Another review and evaluation will identify variable response inconsistency issues and more finely tune the evaluation process. The therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist you work with should help with a professional diagnosis and start a path toward treatment concerning diagnosis and treatment.

BetterHelp Is an Option for You

BetterHelp is a great option to find the help you're looking for. It's an online counseling platform where you can connect with a therapist or counselor. You'll be able to talk to someone right from the comfort of your own home without ever having to go to a therapist's office. That means you'll be able to stay where you may feel the most open and comfortable and will be able to find a therapist who is suited to your needs, preferences, and comfort level. BetterHelp therapists may be able to work with you on any problems you're having or anything you need to talk about so you can start on a path toward healing. Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing different issues.

Counselor Reviews

"Kristen helps me to see my life and myself from a different perspective. I tell her about my experiences, and she can hone into another side of the story that I couldn't get working things out independently. And I had tried, for a very long time. As someone particularly skeptical of counseling in general, it has been refreshing to speak and work with someone who genuinely recognizes that I am seeking help but is reluctant to take it. Her patience and consistent inquiry have been the greatest asset for me, and I appreciate my time with her."

"Brilliant! He helped me out of a pretty dark place and was nothing but helpful! For men looking for a counselor who understands what it is like to be a man in today's world with a family, kids and responsibilities, job, etc. I was extremely impressed with his ability to get down to it and understand what I was talking about. He's great at getting to the root of the issue too. No need to slog through 8,000 words to find out what point he's trying to make. He has a knack for asking exactly the right question in about 2-3 sentences. If you're looking for a counselor who isn't the typical counselor, he's your guy!"

Conclusion

Psychological personality tests help you gain further insight into your mind and aid in identifying potential problems that could affect your overall well-being. They help to look at your personality traits and psychopathology to verify if you are experiencing any challenges relating to your mental health.

Although the MMPI was originally developed over 80 years ago, it offers a great deal of insight into an individual’s mental health. It can be a wonderful start on your mental health journey.  With plenty of information continually published by the University of Minnesota Press and continual revisions of the MMPI, you can rest assured that the MMPI offers a decent picture of your mental state.

Whether that includes superb mental health, mental illness in need of treatment, or mental health concerns in need of being addressed, the MMPI may be able to increase your knowledge and self-awareness. Regardless of exactly what the MMPI may reveal, though, your healthy life starts today by reaching out for help and taking the necessary steps to set yourself up for mental health success. Take the first step today, whether that’s seeking out the MMPI online, implementing healthier habits in your everyday life, or reaching out to a counselor through BetterHelp.

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Therapist Today
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.