What do my mental health test results mean?

Taking an online mental health test is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. The mental health tests on this site are free and confidential—and you can see the results right away. But what do those results actually mean?

What mental health tests can and can’t do

The mental health tests available on this site are the same ones used in doctor’s offices and counseling centers around the world. Researchers have studied these questions rigorously and found that they provide a pretty accurate picture of your mental health.

But if you look closely at the results page, you’ll see lots of statements like “your results indicate that you may be experiencing signs of severe depression.” Why can’t we just say “you have severe depression” and be done with it?

Diagnosing mental health conditions is complicated. There’s no “depression virus” we can do a blood test for. Mental health isn’t really black and white—everyone feels depressed or anxious some of the time. The line between sadness and depression can feel very fuzzy.

On top of that, there’s a lot of overlap between mental health conditions. Sometimes what looks like depression is actually a medical problem, like a slow thyroid. Many people first get diagnosed with one condition, but later find out they actually had something else all along. It’s also possible to have more than one mental health condition at once.

When a doctor or therapist diagnoses someone with depression, they usually have more to go off of than answers to a few multiple-choice questions. They might notice that you move slowly and that your posture is slumped. Maybe you have bags under your eyes from not sleeping. If you meet with your therapist regularly, they can also notice changes over time—like when your voice isn’t quite as expressive as it usually is.

These are often indicators of depression—but they are also the kinds of things that an online test can’t detect.

Mental health professionals can also ask you more open-ended questions, and they can provide clarification if you’re not sure how to answer.

A mental health test is just the beginning

If a mental health test provides an incomplete picture of your mental health, where can you go to fill in the other details?

One way is to reach out to a mental health professional who can provide you with a diagnosis. They can also either provide treatment (like therapy or medication) or help you figure out where else you can get it.

Learning more about mental health can also help you figure things out. The more you learn about anxiety, for example, the more you can start to recognize anxiety when you feel it. Hearing other people’s stories also helps you understand your own experiences—and it helps you feel less alone too. Lots of people share their stories in online communities like Reddit and TikTok or on websites like The Mighty.

A word of warning: It’s easy to try and “diagnose yourself” by reading WebMD and lurking in social media communities. For example, many people nowadays are falling into “ADHD TikTok”, where people describe the lesser-known quirks of ADHD. If you find yourself identifying with what people are saying in these videos, you might have ADHD. But you can’t know for sure just from watching videos. Like online mental health tests, videos and blogs are a good starting point, but not the be-all-end-all.

The more time you spend learning about mental health from all different sources, the more you’ll be able to put the pieces together and get a complete picture.

How all this information can help you

Having a better understanding of yourself and your experiences is an empowering start. But at the end of the day, the reason any of us want to know which mental health condition we have (if any) is so that we can figure out how to feel better.

Sometimes there are very specific actions you need to take for specific mental health conditions. For example, taking a mood stabilizer like lithium can be very helpful for someone who has bipolar disorder—and completely useless for someone who doesn’t.

But most of the things you can do to improve your mental health will help you no matter who you are, what condition you have—or whether you even have a mental health condition or not. (We don’t all have a “mental illness”, but we do all have mental health!) Some of these things include:

You don’t have to work on all these things at once. Pick one or two that seem the most achievable for you, and the most likely to help. Once you make a habit of those (or figure out they don’t seem to help after all), try a few more.

Remember—mental health is a journey. Give yourself a pat on the back! You’ve already started that journey just by being on this site.

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