Psychiatrists are frequently called upon to evaluate the mental status of a patient. Just as a physician systematically reviews the functioning of various organ systems and bodily processes in conducting a physical examination, a psychiatrist needs to study and evaluate various mental processes and functions within the context of the whole person. The impressions which the psychiatrist personally garners during his examination and interview serve as the focal point for the subsequent integration of information derived from sources such as social-history summaries, laboratory tests, and psychological reports. Yet it is generally agreed that there is no theoretical system that easily encompasses such diverse information. The objectivity which the psychiatrist seeks cannot be attained without a suitable guide for obtaining and organizing his observations.
Recognized authorities offer alternative approaches to the evaluation of mental status, but these serve only to illustrate the variation in number and specificity of observations called