Asking “What Mental Illness Do I Have?” Take Our Quiz Instead

Jay Earley, PhD

If you are asking yourself, “What mental illness do I have?” it probably means that you are having difficulties with your emotions or your behavior. You may be having intense emotional or body reactions to certain situations or you may be acting in ways that are self-destructive or hurtful to others.

There are a variety of quizzes and assessments on the web that will help you to diagnose yourself with one of the categories of mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, agoraphobia, borderline personality disorder, and so on. Psychology Today has one; the NYU Psychiatry Department has another.

However, for most people, I don’t believe that it is helpful to view your difficulties in terms of “mental illnesses.” The mental illness definition comes from the medical model, which is fine for diagnosing diseases but doesn’t work very well for psychological issues. In my 40 years of experience as a psychologist, It hasn’t made sense to me to view psychological problems as diseases that indicate you are “ill.” I also haven’t seen them as falling into neat, well-defined disease categories. They are more fluid and interesting than that.

In addition, psychological issues aren’t something that a few “mentally ill” people have. We all have psychological issues, which affect our functioning in mild, moderate, or severe ways. So it is more useful to learn about what types of psychological issues you have, under what circumstances they get triggered, and how intense they are, than it is to ask, “What mental illness do I have?”

I have developed the Pattern System, which is a systematic way of understanding personality and functioning that is oriented toward psychological healing and personal growth. The Pattern System doesn’t just deal with “mental illness.” It deals with the full range of psychological functioning, both the ways you have problems and also the ways that you function well.

A pattern is a way of feeling or functioning that is problematic, that doesn’t work for you, such as procrastination, excessive anger, shyness, depression, or perfectionism. A pattern can also refer to a particular way of relating to people that is problematic, such as being people-pleasing, passive-aggressive, or judgmental.

A capacity is a constructive way of functioning, such as work confidence, aliveness, assertiveness, or ease.

I have developed a variety of free quizzes based on the Pattern System. So instead of asking, “What mental illness do I have?” ask, “What patterns do I have, and which ones do I have strongly enough that I want to work on changing them?” Some of the quizzes also help you to see which healthy capacities you have. You can browse through them at Quiz Central and take whichever ones seem useful to you.

The quizzes are part of a program for psychological healing and personal growth that I have developed which includes books, recordings, and an interactive online application. This program is designed to give you the power of good psychotherapy at a small fraction of the cost. For more information, click Self-Therapy Journey.