By Nicola Kirkpatrick
Updated May 09, 2019
Reviewer Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC
Mental health tests come in many forms, from the free quiz style you'll see on Facebook to those administered by a professional healthcare provider. Chances are you're looking at them to determine whether you have signs of mental illness. Tests can be useful for many reasons, but they can also be "just for fun." Mental health isn't a fun subject, especially if you're suffering from it but tests shouldn't be disregarded just because of where they come from. There are many different tests in this area both free and paid.
Self-Screening Mental Health Tests
Self-screening tests are those you can take yourself. They allow you to note down your feelings or any patterns of behavior. This can be helpful to you for identifying coping behaviors and for a healthcare professional to determine when you are most likely to have difficulties. It can also identify triggers which may affect your behaviors. These are not tests for diagnosis, but they can give you information which will help determine your diagnosis. You may want to print any results and bring them to talk with your doctor, especially if you're struggling to describe what you're going through.
Finding a healthcare professional to analyze this information is pretty easy. Sites like BetterHealth have a search option so you can look at people who fit your criteria and who have experience with what you're going through.
The first place almost everyone will look is the internet. Google "mental health test" and you'll have plenty of results and many types of tests to choose from. The important thing when looking for tests here is that they are not all the same. Individuals with no mental health background will create many tests, and these tests may not be reliable or accurate, especially if you're trying to use one to self-diagnose. It's important to look at the source of the tests you find on the internet to determine how useful they are.
For example, if you take a test on a social media site or one like Buzzfeed it's not likely to be backed or vetted by actual doctors while a site like psychology today or the NHS will likely have been put together with doctor supervision.
The types of tests which can be found on the internet are vast, so much so that it might be confusing if you're not sure exactly what type of test to use. The most common types are a depression test, anxiety test, eating disorder test, or an alcohol and substance abuse test. These will usually have questions relating to your habits and behaviors, your reactions, and things that make you feel strongly. They are used to determine a variety of mental habits rather than diagnosing specific issues even if they claim to do that.
Your healthcare provider will likely have a variety of different mental health tests available. Their tests will help them to diagnose your mental health issues based on similar criteria to the ones above, but they may also be more specific in what they ask depending on what you're seeing them for. For example, if you're going to your doctor about anxiety, they may only ask you questions about situations that cause you anxiety while a visit for depression may be more about what's going on in your life and how long you've been feeling that way.
While this isn't a "test" what they may also do is give you something to take home instead. This works much the same as the self-assessment examples you can find on the internet only they're much more likely to give you useful information that the doctor can analyze.
Another option for where you might be able to find a free mental health test from a doctor is if you are a student. Usually, student health centers are very conscious about mental health issues for their students, and that means it's quite likely they will have tests and quizzes about it. While these are almost always free the subsequent visit to discuss any results will not be, and you may not get the "results" or analysis from your test without it.
Occasionally you may be eligible to sign up for studies based on your diagnosed mental health issues. If you've already been diagnosed these studies offer free or paid tests to help find out more about your condition. While you might not find a test like this useful personally, as a participant, you are helping the medical community understand your issues better and potentially helping them work towards a cure. Studies that offer free mental health tests are usually very specific which means that you'll either need to wait for one that relates to your problems or you may not be able to find one at all.
Which Mental Health Test Should You Take?
- A depression test is for people who feel mentally exhausted, sad, or low. It will help to identify anything specific that is causing these feelings or if they are cyclical.
- An eating disorder test can help you determine problems with your eating which may impact your physical health. Most eating disorders are considered mental health because they are linked to other mental health conditions like depression or PTSD.
- An anxiety test helps people who may be experiencing anxiety understand their triggers or who are experiencing panic attacks to identify their feelings.
- An addiction test will determine if your use of substances to self-medicate is a problem or if it's within "normal" usage.
- There are also tests like psychosis tests, parent tests, youth tests, and PTSD tests that are used for specific conditions or people. These may be harder to find if you're expecting actual doctor tested results, but the information may still be useful when taken to your healthcare provider.
Who Should Take a Mental Health Test?
Anyone can take a mental health test, but the truth is that you may not need one and the type of test you take might not even be useful.
A mental health test can give you the information you need to determine whether it's time to talk to a professional about your symptoms. It can also help give concerned parents information on their child's behavior and help them determine whether they need to seek professional help for their child or not. You should take a mental health test if you think you're experiencing symptoms that are not your normal behavior or that are concerning.
You should take a mental health test if you need clarity about your behavior or more information about it. If your doctor has asked you to note your symptoms or behaviors, then a test you can take daily to establish how you're feeling is a great way to know what to note and bring that information with you when you go to the next.
Much of the debate about whether you should or shouldn't take a test concerns the accuracy of the test. There's no point in taking a test which is intended for fun if you're looking for diagnostic information. Check the source of your test to make sure that it's appropriate for what you want it for.
Another reason you might not want to take the test is some web-based tests can contain viruses and malware which might hijack your computer. Checking the source of the test will protect your computer or phone from attacks and only use tests which come from reliable sources.
Mental health tests for anxiety can cause anxiety which may skew results or make your anxiety worse. If you're choosing a free mental health test because of anxiety, then you need to debate whether it's worth making your anxiety worse to get results. If you're certain you're suffering from anxiety, then there's no need to take a test to check, but you should go to your healthcare provider first.
Almost all mental health tests are designed for adults. Because children's mental health is a very specialized subject, there are fewer resources available to them. If you're making a person under the age of 18 take a test, then it's important to know whether that test is designed for them or not. A test that isn't intended specifically for children may not give accurate results.
Sometimes a mental health test can do more harm than good. If it's causing you anxiety to get results, then it's not worth taking. In some cases, a mental health test can give you valuable information towards your diagnosis and can also help you track your mental health. While free tests are not always accurate, the information you glean may help your healthcare provider, just be sure you're using one that has some legitimacy to it.
Look specifically for tests that are made by professional psychological organizations and ones that have been made by professionals over social media ones. A mental health test isn't a diagnosing tool, so it's important to look at the results with a professional rather than just assuming they're correct.