I'm Not Crazy, Am I?!

Mental health tests: What are they good for?  Is it like all those tests we had to take throughout high school?  If I take one, does it mean I'm crazy?  Are they going to take me away to the funny farm?

Well, let me assure you, first of all, that crazy is a very loaded and relative term.  There are all sorts of condition that people everywhere struggle with: it does not mean that they're crazy.

Mental health tests, or psychological tests, are actually very helpful, thanks to the research of many psychologists since the 1900's.  There are so many tests, that it's hard to talk about them all in this brief article, but it may help if I share a definition with you.

Mental Health Tests Defined

A mental health test, or psychological test, is an instrument used to measure cognitive or emotional functioning in an individual. 

Types of Mental Health Tests

There are generally four groups of psychological tests.

IQ/Achievement Test

IQ Tests measure a person's level of intelligence in four different areas: verbal comprehension; perceptual reasoning; working memory; and processing speed.

Achievement tests measure a person's level of ability and how well s/he is using that ability compared to her/his level of development.

Attitude Tests

These types of tests are usually used to ascertain a person's feelings or thoughts toward an event or person.  These tests are often used in political or market research.

Neuropsychological Tests

These tests are usually measuring different functions associated with brain activity.  You will often see these types of tests used to screen for Alzheimer's or Dementia.  Or, if a person is a stroke victim or has a head injury, these tests will be used to screen for any cognitive impairments, as well as measuring the level of impairments.

These tests can also be helpful for screening for childhood learning disabilities that might not be noticed within the school system.  Once these comprehensive tests are performed, children can then become eligible for either 504 accommodations or an Individualized Education Plan.

Personality Tests

There are both objective and projective measures of personality.  The more statistically significant and research backed tests are the objective ones.  These tests can be used for vocational/aptitude testing; for hiring candidates for jobs; for detecting ongoing personality styles that present challenges in a person's life; or for even detecting attention deficit disorders, anxiety disorders, or depression.

Caution Regarding Online Mental Health Tests

I want to offer this advice to you if you are checking out different free personality testing or mental health test websites.  It's okay to start there.  But it's not always clear whether these tests have been carefully researched and evaluated by doctoral level scientists.  There is a lot of statistical testing that goes into a psychological test before a psychologist can use it with clients.  Therefore, you should take any results you get online with a "grain of salt." 

The results of those tests may point you toward the need for more professional psychological testing.   You want to make sure that you are making an appointment with a licensed psychologist who specializes in psychological testing.

Having given you this warning, I do want to mention that PsychCentral.Com is a fairly well respected site.  You can check out some of the mental health quitzzes at their site. But again, re-read the above paragraphs before taking them as "the truth."