Skip to main content


The Mental Status Exam (MSE) is a psychiatry tool used to objectively, descriptively and thoroughly report a patient's mental state at the time of the clinical interview. It contains primarily information observed by the psychiatrist, not symptoms reported by the patient, with a few exceptions.  


The MSE is a part of every psychiatric clinical evaluation. It has a standard format just as the physical exam. It is interpreted in conjunction with the patient's history, physical exam and laboratory studies, leading to differential diagnosis.  Consideration is given to all aspects of mental functioning. The MSE is utilized both for initial diagnosis and for assessing the course of a disorder and its subsequent response to treatment.


 To gain a detailed understanding of the individual components of the Mental Status Exam (MSE).


  • Define the individual components of the MSE.
  • Gain an understanding of which components of the MSE can be derived from observation of the patient.
  • Increase your understanding of how to elicit the components of the MSE that require direct questioning of the patient.
  • Describe a patient’s clinical presentation using the appropriate MSE terminology.


Sadock, B. J. and Sadock, V. A., eds. Signs and Symptoms in Psychiatry.Kaplan & Sadock's Synopsis of Psychiatry. 9th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2003.

Larsen, Paul D. and Stensaas, Suzanne S. Mental Status Exam Anatomy, NeuroLogic Exam (2007), Retrieved 4/21/08 from