Tests for psychological disorders frequently resemble a questionnaire or checklist rather than a medical test seeking physical evidence. Many psychological assessments are in the form of a pencil and paper or computer generated test, while others are based on observation of behaviors or interviews. They fall into broad categories based on the psychological aspect being assessed. Achievement and intelligence quotient (IQ) tests measure academic skills and raw intelligence, while personality tests determine patterns of feelings, behaviors and beliefs. Neuropsychological tests are used to measure the effects of damage to specific areas of the brain on psychological functioning.
Many of the tests for psychological disorders are structured tests administered by trained psychologists. A patient’s raw scores are compared to a large group of scores from a similar population of people based on certain characteristics such as age or nationality. The many different assessments that measure IQ and achievement are of this type. These tests may be used in conjunction with other tests for psychological disorders to help determine if a patient exhibits a mental disorder. Most neuropsychological tests are also structured, norm-referenced tests.
If an area of the brain has been damaged, neuropsychological tests can be used along with medical tests to determine any effects on psychological functioning. Tests can be used to measure both short-term and long-term memory functions. Cognitive processes such as problem solving and attention can also be assessed. Specific aspects of language processing and use are also tested. Before individual tests are given, a combined battery of tests can be administered to gain an overview of the patient’s psychological functioning.
Personality tests for psychological disorders may be objective or free response style assessments. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is a frequently administered objective personality assessment. Clinicians use this comprehensive test to assist in diagnosing personality disorders. The Rorschach test uses open ended responses to ten cards with symmetrical inkblots to assess emotional functioning and personality. Unfortunately, this test does not have the reliability of the structured tests because of its subjective nature.
An interview format may be used for certain tests for psychological disorders. Psychiatrists utilize the mental status examination (MSE) to develop a comprehensive view of the patient’s current mental state using objective observations and clinical interviewing. The patient’s appearance, activity and mood are thoroughly examined during the interview. In addition, various aspects of cognition, perception and thought processes are recorded. The results of the MSE are used to develop a diagnosis and treatment plan for psychiatric or behavioral disorders.
There are numerous individual tests for psychological disorders within each general category of assessment. Not all of them have the same level of reliability or evidence-based acceptability. When determining the presence of a psychological disorder, a battery of tests is frequently utilized as part of a comprehensive psychological assessment. The specific tests used may vary from one medical practitioner to another. In the same way, school districts may employ different tests to measure the same variables.