More than one in four Americans suffer from a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at any given time, according to estimates from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Over our lifetime nearly one half of us suffer from such disorders. Unfortunately, nearly two thirds of our behavioral and emotional problems are never diagnosed or treated, even though in many cases effective treatment is available. More than 80 percent of people with major depression, for example, benefit substantially from a combination of medication and counseling.
When I served as editor in chief of Psychology Today, readers often asked me to direct them to screening tests for mental health problems. I looked for such tests on the Internet, which seemed the ideal tool for helping people find answers to questions about their mental health: Is this down feeling I’m experiencing normal? Why do I shout at my wife and kids all the time? Is my drinking out of control? Should I be seeing a therapist? I found the Internet riddled with thousands of homemade tests, but none had been scientifically validated. Worse, many of them served as marketing vehicles for videos, books or services—sending the test taker straight to a sales pitch. No broad, reliable, consumer-friendly test seemed to exist.