Fortunately, we live in an age where information is readily available. And even if the information isn’t entirely available, there are tools to help you gather the information you need. For instance, if you’re worried or have concerns about your teen’s mental health, there are a variety of online tests and quizzes which can at least provide you with basic information about a particular illness. Psychological tests and screenings are good beginning tools to guide someone in the right direction, if they’re unsure about what to do.

However, online psychological tests come with some caution. This article will explore the pros and cons of using online psychological tests and screenings, as well as provide a list of resources for parents who may be concerned about their teen.

Why Fill Out an Online Test?

There are many reasons why parents of teens might want to use an online tool before going to a mental health professional. Here are a few reasons why parents might feel more comfortable first filling out an online test:

  1. Gather information. Mental health is a topic that most people don’t know much about. They have a general idea about depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder, but when it comes down to identifying it in their teen, they may need some more information. Tests can be a way of learning more about a particular illness as a means to explore, learn, and decide how to respond.
  2. Save money. One of the biggest cautions about using an online test is using it in the place of seeking professional help. Yes, professional assistance is likely going to have a cost associated with it. It can be beneficial to take some preliminary steps, such as taking an online psychological test prior to seeking a professional. And doing so can save you money. However, psychological tests and screenings should never take the place of a professional when a therapist or psychologist is needed.
  3. Guide the decision making process. As parents using online psychological tools to gather information, these tests can also guide the process of deciding what to do next. For instance, perhaps a teen is exhibiting sadness because a friend moved away. A test can provide a parent with information about depression, and in this case, a parent might discover that symptoms of depression are much different than the ones that his teen is displaying.

Self-Assessment Tools for Teens

Not only are there tests in which parents can take about their teens, but there are also tools that teens can use themselves. Below is a list of self-evaluation assessments to use for various mental illnesses that may affect teens, such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders:

  • The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) is used to assess depression. It is a short questionnaire that is fairly straightforward and easy to read and answer.
  • The Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) assesses symptoms of stress and anxiety. It includes a chart listing various symptoms of anxiety. A teen filling out this form is required to rate those symptoms, based on how much he or she has experienced them in the last 30 days.
  • Adolescent Dissociative Experiences Scale II (A-DES) is a 30 question form that is used to measure the degree of dissociation that a teen experiences. Dissociation is a symptom that often results from trauma, whether experienced in childhood or later in life. Dissociation varies in intensity with each individual and can be experienced in different ways. Two forms of dissociation are an inability to feel one’s body and feeling as though one’s environment is not real.
  • Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) is an assessment that measures the degree of obsessive-compulsive symptoms.
  • Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI) is one of the most widely used tools for assessing behavior and signs of an eating disorder. The Eating Disorder Inventory measures attitudes towards eating as well as psychological traits such as perfectionism, insecurity, and impulse control.

Cautions to Consider When Using Psychological Tests

When using online tools or self assessments, you may want to keep the following in mind:

Tests do not replace professional help. As already mentioned above, online tests and assessment tools are not to be used to make your own decision about whether a teen has an illness. These assessment tools are just that – tools. Rather, they could be used to determine whether to seek out more support, talk to a professional, and/or speak to your teen’s doctor about the symptoms you’re seeing. For more about this caution, see the warning at the bottom of this page on PsychCentral.

A mental health professional will conduct their own an assessment. A therapist, counselor, or psychologist can assess the severity of symptoms and whether any treatment methods are needed. In fact, in most cases, mental health providers will do their own assessment once you bring your teen in for an appointment. This process may take one full session or even last two sessions.

A mental health professional will likely conduct a more thorough assessment.  Often a mental health provider will assess a teen in a holistic way, which a self-evaluation tool can’t always do. In other words, the assessment done by a therapist, counselor, or psychologist will often be inclusive of a teen’s lifestyle, physical health, social relationships, and emotional well being. Furthermore, a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist will likely want to talk to your teen alone, gathering information from the way that your teen talks about his or her symptoms. At the end of a professional assessment, the mental health professional will likely provide you with a diagnosis and an idea for the course of treatment.

Online tests and self-evaluation tools can be the first step in gathering more information about the necessity for professional support. Then, a formal assessment by a mental health professional can provide you with clear information about whether your teen has an illness and what kind of treatment might be required.

Resources for Parents: Online Tools for Teen Mental Health

With all the cautions in mind and now that you have a greater understanding of how to use online tests, here is a list of resources to use for a variety of teen mental health symptoms:

Healthy Place: Online Psychological Tests

PsychCentral: Psychological Tests and Quizzes

Psychology Today: Tests

PsychTests: Mental Health Assessment

Mental Health Minnesota: Screening for Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Each of these three sites provides a list of tests for a variety of illnesses including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, ADHD, and more.