Did you know?

  • 5% of American adults experience a mental illness in any one year
  • Of all the American adults with a mental illness in any given year, 14.4% have one disorder, 5.8% have two disorders and 6% have three or more
  • Half of all mental disorders begin by age 14 and three-quarters by age 24.

Mental disorders are a serious condition and many people are getting affected every year. To keep people safe, it’s necessary to make an early diagnosis. This helps the patients in getting treatment before the condition gets worse.

To make a diagnosis, psychological tools have to be used. These are able to guide the psychologist or psychiatrist to ensure the correct diagnosis is made.

One of the most widely used tools for assessing mental disorders is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. This is a test which is used to profile your personality traits and psychopathology.

For a more accurate diagnosis, the test is used together with other health assessment tools and not in isolation.

If you are a psychiatric patient, this test will be used to identify any personal, social and behavioral issues. The results will help the psychiatrist in developing the right kind of treatment.

The MMPI test was developed by Starke R. Hathaway and J. C. McKinley in 1937. Both worked at the University of Minnesota with Starke being a clinical psychologist and McKinley being a neuropsychiatrist.

The MMPI test is copyrighted by the University of Minnesota.


The MMPI test was originally intended for clinical evaluation only.

However, its usefulness grew beyond this because of its successful usage.

Although the official usage is still clinical, the test has been embraced for other purposes where the need to know people’s personalities and mental states is crucial.

Here are some of the ways in which this test is used.

Evaluation of Mental Disorders

MMPI was developed for the express use of clinical assessment of psychiatric patients. As such, this usage gets the benefit of years of research targeting mental disorders.

Mental disorders are not easily and well evaluated using normal questioning by doctors. And the same way there are medical practitioners specializing in mental disorders, so there was developed a specialized means of evaluating those patients.

Some common mental disorders evaluated by psychiatrists include clinical depression, bipolar depression, schizophrenia and narcissism.

Court Cases

The judicial system has also had its share of use of the MMPI test. This has happened mostly in the cases where it is critical that the court knows the truth about the accused.

To know whether the accused was in a stable state of mind when committing a crime, the judge may order for a clinical examination.

Since the test does a good job in detecting lies in the answers given, MMPI has been used to help make judgments.

Another type of cases which use the MMPI test is child custody disputes.

When divorcing/divorced or separating/separated parents are fighting for child custody, they usually try to prove that they’re best suited to stay with the child.

There might be accusations made by one parent against the other and apart from the witness statements, this test can be ordered.

Its results will help the judge make a ruling which will best serve the interests of the child.

Job Screening

The MMPI test has also been used to select the best job candidate in certain cases.

Since some jobs are very sensitive and require employees with a stable state of mind, the test may be used as part of the hiring process.

The people holding these job positions need to be alert and of sound mind to avoid costly accidents.

Some of these jobs are:

  • Nuclear power plant workers – nuclear power plants are highly-sensitive environments. As much as nuclear is a clean source of energy, these work places can easily create disasters with the slightest of mistakes.

Nuclear power plant accidents can affect the health of the people near it as well as affect the environment.

  • Police officers – the police are supposed to maintain law and order. In performing this noble task, they encounter different people who need to be handled both professionally and carefully.

If an officer has a mental disorder or is prone to have one, his productivity and conduct at work may be in question.

  • Airplane pilots – what would your reaction be if the driver of your taxi drove carelessly and changed lanes with little regard for safety? Now imagine flying on your preferred airline and the pilot swerves right and left on the runway avoiding non-existent obstacles.

If a pilot has a mental condition, he risks the lives of many passengers.

Use in Substance Abuse Programs

Mental conditions and drug abuse often go hand in hand. One can easily lead to the other.

When patients check into a facility providing substance abuse rehabilitation programs, part of the program may entail undertaking an MMPI test.

This will usually be part of the evaluation process seeking to know what conditions to treat in the rehabilitation process.

If it’s discovered that a mental condition was the of drug abuse, then rehabilitating the patient becomes easier.

It minimizes the time spent and the resources used since it’s no longer a trial and error kind of treatment.

Marriage Counseling

Anytime counseling is done, an understanding of the situation is necessary. A solution can only be right and useful if it’s based on the reality of the situation. This understanding is mostly achieved through active listening.

However, in some cases, the patient giving information may not even understand it well enough.

Or in other cases, the person may be knowingly giving false information. This can often be the case in marital disputes.

With an innate desire to win and be seen in good light by outsiders, it’s possible for one marriage partner to lie to a counselor. This is especially true where abuse is present.

The abuser, not wanting to take responsibility of his actions, may lie about the situation.

Since there are personality types which are prone to be abusive, a counselor may use the MMPI test to find out this. If the interpreted results indicate some disorder, then tackling it becomes easier.

The victim can also be appropriately advised on how to handle the partner and common situations.


The term MMPI is nowadays almost always used to refer to one of the three tests commonly administered for mental assessment.

There are two versions of the test used for adults while one is exclusively designed for adolescents.

Below is a brief description of the three tests.


This version of the test was the result of the first major revision of the original MMPI test. It was adopted in 1989 after more research was conducted and analyses done on the accuracy of the test.

The MMPI-2 revision was released in 1989, with a further revision done in early 2001. Because of the large research base, this test is the more popular of the three and is also used more.

It has 567 true/false questions and usually takes between 1 hour and one and a half hours to complete.


This version of the MMPI test is the more recent revision. The name in full is MMPI-2 Restructured Form. This was published in 2008 and contains fewer questions. The questions are still the true/false type though they number 338.

With fewer questions, the time taken to administer this test is shorter. On average, it takes between 25 – 50 minutes to complete the test.

Although the majority of psychiatrists still use the MMPI-2 test, the number of those moving to this one is increasing.


This version of the test was designed for adolescents and the letter “A” in the name stands for adolescents. The age covered by the test is 14 – 18 years. This test was published in 1992.

With 478 questions checking for personality traits and behavioral issues, it takes around 1 hour to complete.

Just like there was a revision of the MMPI-2 version, one was done for the MMPI-A.

In 2016, the MMPI-A-RF was released. The number of questions had been reduced to 241.

The approximate time it takes to complete the test is 25 – 45 minutes.


MMPI identifies and measures the degree of mental disorders using scales.

Whereas the names of the scales make reference to mental disorders, the scales are not pure measures of the same.

Every individual scale is a means of identifying symptoms which are typical of patients suffering from the particular disorder.

All the scales are used for diagnosis in order to capture as many symptoms as possible. This is because some conditions usually share symptoms.

In such cases, it’s very important to accurately distinguish between the conditions. An inaccurate diagnosis will worsen the patient’s situation since the wrong treatment will be given.

Scale 1: Hypochondriasis

This scale looks at a wide range of fears touching on bodily health and functioning.

These are the fears which are generally expressed when someone is preoccupied with a serious illness even when no medical test validates it.

In fact, medical tests can prove that the person is well but the fears still persist.

The name hypochondriasis is a real mental disorder which was previously called hypochondriacal neurosis.

The condition was originally found to be present among adults though it has recently been found among adolescents too.

Scale 2: Depression

Scale 2 measures signs of clinical depression. These signs include low moods, fatigue, hopelessness, lack of interest, withdrawal and general dissatisfaction with life.

Depression is a mental condition which occurs together with other conditions, chief among them anxiety.

The depression scale is used to gauge the degree of the main symptoms i.e. emotional lows and involvement in life activities.

High scores suggest a possible case of clinical depression. Low scores on the other hand imply a general lack of motivation and involvement in life activities.

Scale 3: Hysteria

This scale measures hysterical reactions to stress triggers in life or whether a patient has physical complaints during stressful situations.

It does this by measuring a patient’s poor physical health, shyness, cynicism, headaches and neuroticism.

In many cases, those who are more educated and belong to a high social class often score highly in this scale. Women also tend to score highly than men in this scale.

Scale 4: Psychopathic Deviate

This scale was developed with the aim of helping identify patients with psychopathic symptoms.

It measures, among other things, social deviations, rebelliousness, amorality and the absence of pleasurable life experiences.

Through scores which show disobedience and antisocial behavioral patterns, those who score high tend to have a rejection of authority.

Those who have lower scores are viewed as more conforming and submissive.

Scale 5: Masculinity/Femininity

The original intention of developing this score was to identify males with homosexual tendencies. The items measured included education, intelligence and socio-economic status.

More towards the original intentions, the scale also measures the interests an individual has for the traditional masculine or feminine roles.

These include hobbies, degrees of activity and passivity, aesthetic preferences as well as personal sensitivity.

In males, scores which are higher than expected are understood to suggest the likelihood of sexual concerns and problems.

In females, high scores are taken to mean a rejection of the traditional female roles.

Scale 6: Paranoia

Scale 6 was developed to identify paranoia symptoms in people.

The scale measures feelings of persecution, grandiose self-concepts, suspiciousness, interpersonal sensitivity, moral self-righteousness as well as the holding of rigid opinions.

Anyone scoring high in these symptoms is said to have paranoia.

Scale 7: Psychasthenia

There are people who find it difficult to resist certain thoughts and actions. The psychasthenia scale was developed to identify such. The name “psychasthenia” is however rarely used today.

In its place is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This is the condition that closest bears the same symptoms as the original psychasthenia.

Some of the symptoms measured by this scale include compulsions, obsessions, abnormal fears, difficulty in concentration and feelings of guilt.

The main symptom though is the inability to resist some thoughts and actions even when they’re obviously maladaptive.

Scale 8: Schizophrenia

The schizophrenia scale was developed to identify people with schizophrenic symptoms.

The scale covers a wide variety of symptoms including difficulty in concentration, impulse control, lack of deep interests, disturbing questions on self-worth and identity, poor family relationships and social alienation.

Other symptoms include experiencing bizarre thought processes, weird perceptions, sexual difficulties, delusions and hallucinations.

High scores are common among those socially alienated, adolescents and college students. Some of the observed behavior patterns among such patients include withdrawal, aggression and bizarre acts.

Scale 9: Hypomania

This scale was designed to identify people exhibiting symptoms of hypomania.

This condition is characterized by elevated moods, rapid speech, irritability and engaging in risky behavior, such as gambling with life savings.

It also measures bodily concerns, family relationships as well as moral values and attitudes.

Typical results show adolescents and college students attain high scores.

This is possibly because of the high levels of activity and emotional turmoil they experience in that phase of life.

Black subjects also tend to score higher than white subjects.

Scale 0: Social Introversion

This scale is meant to measure a person’s social introversion and extroversion. These are the two extremes when it comes to assessing a person’s level of comfort when in social gatherings.

Those who are socially introverted will become uncomfortable in social interactions. The socially extrovert will love the idea of being with others.

Whereas he will enjoy the interactions, the social introvert will prefer to stay away from such gatherings.


The MMPI-2 scales in this test are used in many different ways. If you remember some of the ways of using these scales, e.g. in court cases, there’s a possibility of the person not being completely honest.

Answers may be skewed in an attempt to influence the judgment. To avoid this, validity scales were developed.

These scales are used to prove the accuracy of the test and also show to what degree the answers given may have been distorted.

Here are the validity scales.

  • The Lie scale (L) – this scale is meant to trap the people who are trying to intentionally lie. It’s for those seeking to show themselves as better than they really are. This will show in the results as high scores.
  • The F scale (F) – the F scale is used to determine whether the person taking the test is either answering questions randomly or without paying attention to the questions being asked. This will show in contradictions between different answers.
  • The Back F scale (Fb) – this scale is used for similar purposes as the F scale but focuses on the last half of the test. A high score indicates lack of attention or being under much stress.
  • The K scale (K) – this scale checks things like family relationships, self-control and interpersonal relationships. The results are used to identify signs of psychopathology. High scores in this scale mean the person is being defensive.


Early diagnosis of mental conditions is necessary for timely treatment.

Although the MMPI-2 test is many years old, it remains the favorite mental disorders diagnosis tool for many psychologists and psychiatrists.

It’s comprehensive and accurate too.

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)

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