Mental Status Examination

An individual's mental health is frequently reflected in the mental status examination (MSE), which is an integral and significant part of the psychiatric evaluation. It is the medical counterpart of a physical examination. The MSE seeks to measure all aspects of a person's present mental functioning and serves as the foundation for recognizing indications and symptoms of mental diseases. It may be the most important determinant in establishing the diagnosis at times.

Mental Status Examination

The mental status examination (MSE) has been used primarily in psychiatry, clinical psychology, and psychiatric social work for several decades. However, it is increasingly being employed by counselors in professional contexts needing assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental problems.

The MSE assesses the client's degree of functioning and self-presentation. The MSE, which is usually administered (formally or informally) during the first or intake interview, can also offer counselors a useful method for organizing objective (client observations) and subjective (data supplied by clients) information for use in diagnosis and therapy.

This is the client's assessment at the time of the interview. The clinician has finished taking the case history. Then, based on the facts supplied by the client and the informant, he makes a preliminary diagnosis. This is the evaluation that will attempt to confirm the diagnosis. The physician asks questions based on a diagnostic system. This aids him in deciding on the diagnosis. This also validates the clinical interpretation of the client's complaints.

Components of MSE

Appearance and Behaviour

This comprises a basic description of how the patient appears, acts, and behaves as he enters the interview scenario, throughout the interview, and as he departs the clinician's office after the interview is over. Regarding the patient's appearance, the clinician should focus on important elements such as how the patient is groomed, whether he is neat, whether he is kept, what is the patient's facial expression, does the patient have any odd movements, and is there anything typical/atypical about the patient.

While describing the patient's behavior, a broad comment about whether they are in acute distress should be noted, followed by a more particular statement about the patient's attitude to the interview. The patient may be cooperative, irritated, disinhibited, indifferent, and so forth. Appropriateness should also be taken into account when interpreting the observation.

Psychomotor Activity

Motor activity can be normal, diminished (generalized slowness, bradykinesia), or augmented (agitated, restless). This aids in understanding diagnosis (for example, sadness vs. mania) and potential neurological or physical concerns. Attention to psychomotor activity can also hint at unfavorable responses or side effects of drugs, such as tardive dyskinesia, akathisia, or parkinsonian characteristics.


When characterizing the speech, one should consider fluency, quantity, tempo, tone, and loudness. Fluency refers to whether the patient has complete command of the language and potentially more subtle fluency concerns such as stuttering, difficulty finding words, or paraphrastic mistakes. The amount of speech is evaluated to see whether it is normal, increasing, or diminished. A decrease in speech volume may indicate anything from worry or apathy to cognitive obstruction or insanity. In mania or agitated psychotics, there is often an increase in speech.

Mood and Affect

The mood is traditionally described as a person's internal and continuous emotional state. Because it is a subjective experience, it is better to describe the patient's mood in their own words. In contrast, affect indicates the patient's current level of emotional receptivity. It should be judged by examining the patient's outward manifestation of emotion.

Quality, range, responsiveness, and appropriateness are frequently used to characterize affect. Speech is typically a significant signal in assessing affect, but it is not the only one. The range of affect is crucial to assess since it represents the whole spectrum of emotional states seen throughout the interview. The responsiveness of affect refers to the change in affect in response to external or internal stimuli (for example, if the patient grins when the therapist makes a lighthearted joke). It should also be noticed if the patient's affect is suitable to the current scenario, clinical situation, and what he or she is thinking about (thought content).

Form of Thought

The form of thought or thought process varies from thought content in that it describes how ideas are produced, arranged, and communicated rather than what the individual is thinking. A patient's cognitive process can be normal with highly deluded thought content. In contrast, there may be normal thinking content but a drastically damaged mental process.

The usual mental process is regarded as linear, systematic, and goal-directed. Flight of idea, tangentiality, circumstantiality, perseveration, thinking block, neologism, poverty of speech, and other aberrant mental processes are mentioned. With the flight of ideas, the patient swiftly jumps from one concept to another at a rate that the listener finds difficult to keep up with, although all of the thoughts are logically related.

A circumstantial patient comprises facts and materials that are not immediately related to the subject or answers to the inquiry but ultimately return to the subject or answers to the question. The patient's tangential thought process may look comparable at first, but the patient never returns to the original topic or query. Tangential ideas are seen as unimportant and only tenuously linked.

Perseverance is the tendency to focus on a single thought or piece of material without being able to move on to other things. Despite the interviewer's efforts to shift the subject, the persistent patient will return to the same issue. A mental blockage is a disorganized thought process that causes the patient to appear unable to complete a thought.

Thought Content

Thought content is simply the patient's ideas or the significance of the patient's words throughout the interview. This is deduced from the patient's spontaneous expressions and replies to questions designed to elicit specific pathologies. Some patients may experience continuous repeating of certain information or thoughts. For example, a depressive patient may believe his future is dismal and continuously obsess about it, but an anxious patient may worry about more mundane events. Delusions are erroneous; others need to share fixed thoughts that are retained despite evidence to the contrary and from the same socio-cultural and educational background.

Possession of Thought

Most of us realize that our ideas are our own and that we influence them. However, in some pathological circumstances, this mental possession is lost. Obsessional thoughts are unwanted and recurrent ideas that infiltrate the patient's mind regularly, and they are typically unfamiliar to the patient's ego, ludicrous, and rejected. Thought estrangement is one of Schneider's First Rank Symptoms. Thought insertion, thought withdrawal and thought broadcasting are examples of these.

Perceptual Disturbances

Hallucinations, illusions, depersonalization, and derealization are examples of perceptual abnormalities. Hallucinations are perceptions that arise without any stimuli to account for them. Auditory hallucinations are the most common hallucinations seen in psychiatric settings. Visual, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory hallucinations are examples of hallucinations (taste). The interviewer must distinguish between a real hallucination and a misinterpretation of stimuli (illusion). It is an illusion to hear the wind rustle through the trees outside one's bedroom and assume one's name is being called. Hypnagogic hallucinations (at the intersection of alertness and sleep) are common. Patients who do not have psychosis may occasionally hear their name shouted or see flashes or shadows out of the corner of their eyes.


The interviewer should gain a general impression of the patient's cognitive functioning level. Level of awareness, attentiveness/alertness, orientation, concentration, memory (both short and long term), computation, fund of knowledge, abstract thinking, insight, and judgment are the cognitive functioning characteristics that should be measured. All of the following cognitive functions may be assessed using organized tests.

However, it is vital to note that these exams can be used generally, and socio-cultural adjustments may be necessary at times. Another key feature of cognitive function evaluation is that the therapist should inform the patient that simple tests may be administered to determine the patient's cognitive condition.


In psychiatric assessment, insight refers to the patient's comprehension of whether they have an illness, whether the sickness is medical or psychological, what the source of the illness is and if they require therapy, what their involvement in treatment would be, and so on. Depending on the examination, the patient may have no insight, moderate insight, or complete insight. In most cases, insight is lost during psychosis. The level of understanding does not indicate the severity of the ailment.


The mental state assessment is an important part of a psychiatric examination, and the ability to execute a thorough MSE is a necessary skill for a mental health practitioner. Even though the MSE is recorded in a structured format, there are no set methods for evaluating the patient. Questioning can begin with any element, depending on the comfort of the patient and the therapist. In conclusion, the therapist should have completed an assessment of all areas of MSE. The firsthand observations made by the patient's therapist are an important component of MSE. The assessment should thoroughly examine the patient's physical and cognitive health.