Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Diagnosis of mental illness

2-minute read

Mental illness can be diagnosed after a doctors talks to you in detail about your symptoms. There are generally no blood tests or brain scans that can confirm a mental illness, although these tests may be useful in finding out other possible causes of the symptoms.

The first step is to visit a doctor or mental health professional. Assessment will include questions about your thoughts, mood and behaviours and it may be helpful to include a family member or carer. Questionnaires are sometimes used, although a diagnosis should not be made on the basis of a questionnaire alone.

The symptoms of different mental illnesses are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association. This manual is used by doctors to decide which mental illness you have.

It may be necessary to get a referral to a psychiatrist, psychologist or other specialised service for further assessment and treatment.

Not sure what to do next?

If you or someone you know are finding it difficult to manage mental health issues, try healthdirect’s Symptom Checker and get advice on when to seek professional help.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2018


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Different types of mental illness

Information about different types of mental illness (or 'diagnoses') and how parents with these illnesses may feel or behave.

Read more on COPMI – Children of Parents with a Mental Illness website

About mental illness

These short videos can help you to understand your parent's mental illness and how it affects their behavior. What mental illness is, about different types of mental illnesses ('diagnoses'), whether your parent will get better, and how to look after yourself too.

Read more on COPMI – Children of Parents with a Mental Illness website

Treatments for mental illness

Is mental illness treatable? Yes, mental illness can be treated. This means that many people who have a mental illness, and are treated, recover well...

Read more on SANE Australia website

Mental illness & the workplace

Managers and employers have an important role in supporting workers with a mental illness

Read more on SANE Australia website

Understanding your mental illness

Information for parents about understanding your own mental illness. About learning from others and supporting your family to talk about their understanding and experiences.

Read more on COPMI – Children of Parents with a Mental Illness website

My parent has a mental illness | Supporting others | ReachOut Australia

Whether your parent has been diagnosed with a mental illness, or you think they have a mental health condition, it’s normal to have conflicted feelings about it.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

Fact vs myth: mental illness basics

Everyone’s got an opinion about mental health, but opinions based on myths add to stigma and make life harder for people affected by mental illness. S...

Read more on SANE Australia website

What is dual diagnosis? - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Dual diagnosis is a term used to describe when a person is experiencing both mental health problems and substance misuse.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

For dads

Information in fact sheets for dads who experience mental illness (or mental health problems) or who have partners who do.

Read more on COPMI – Children of Parents with a Mental Illness website

Helping the parent

Helping your loved one to get help if they have a mental illness. Sources of professional help.

Read more on COPMI – Children of Parents with a Mental Illness website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo