What is contained on a mental status exam?


Quick Answer

A mental status exam includes an assessment of a patient's appearance and general behavior, mood and affect, speech, motor activity and thought process. The exam also assesses a patient's cognitive functions, thought content and perceptual disturbances, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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Full Answer

A physician administering a mental status exam begins by observing how the patient interacts with him and the environment, notes the American Academy of Family Physicians. The physician may use the collaborative observations of office staff to gauge the appearance and behavioral changes of the patient. The physician observes the motor activity of the patient, including his facial expressions, general body movement and gait. Speech observations include the coherence, rate, volume and spontaneity of the patient's verbal utterances.

A mental exam assesses the flow and rate of thought of the patient and evaluates whether thoughts are closely or loosely associated, logical, or circumstantial, states the American Academy of Family Physicians. A physician administering the exam assesses what the patient is thinking and looks for the presence or absence of delusional, homicidal and suicidal thoughts. The physician looks for the source and content of hallucinations to diagnose conditions such as schizophrenic disorder, depression and dementia. The mental exam also includes an assessment of the patient's concentration, his memory, and the stability of his consciousness.

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