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Nurse and a mental health patient

How to Study for Mental Health NCLEX Questions

Prepping for mental health NCLEX questions can feel like a daunting task when you aren’t quite sure where to start. The area of mental health nursing encompasses a huge variety of conditions and diagnoses. 


So where do you begin and what do you need to know?


First, be sure you’re well aware of the different types of mental health conditions, medications typically used, and how you as a nurse care for these patients. But most of all, review practice mental health NCLEX questions frequently to maximize your studying efforts and get you ready to go for the exam day. 


Today we’re going to cover all of this information and more, leaving no stone unturned. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have a better understanding of what to expect for mental health NCLEX questions on the exam.

What Does Mental Health Nursing Encompass?

According to the American Psychiatric Nursing Association, mental health and psychiatric nursing encompasses caring for and assessing your patient’s mental health needs. This includes nursing practice in the community, and at both inpatient and outpatient facilities. Mental health includes your social, emotional, and psychological health. These affect how we relate to the world and how we process our feelings.


When answering mental health NCLEX questions, know that even if you don’t work in an area focused on mental health, you will care for patients with mental health conditions throughout your nursing career. This is because one in five U.S. adults has a mental health condition. Because they are so common, you will undoubtedly care for those affected no matter what area of nursing practice you go into.


Think of it like this. Cardiac patients go to the cardiac unit. Pregnant patients go to labor and delivery. Critically ill patients go to the ICU. But psychiatric patients are different. They don’t just go to the mental health unit, they go to all units of a hospital. 


While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it’s a useful way to think of this type of nursing. Because even if you don’t choose to be a mental health nurse, there’s no doubt you will care for mental health patients throughout your career as an RN or LPN. Therefore, it’s important to keep your psychiatric nursing skills sharp as they come in handy in your day-to-day nursing practice and, of course, for your mental health NCLEX questions.

Types of Mental Health Conditions to Know for the NCLEX

Nurse and another mental health patient

While there are many different types of mental health diagnoses, we’re going to list a few common diagnoses you might find on the exam for mental health NCLEX questions. Know that mental health conditions affect children all the way up to adults. 


Depression is more than just sadness. Depression is a very common condition affecting more than 19 million Americans. Someone who is depressed may feel tired, have thoughts of suicide, have aches or pains, or lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.

Drug Abuse

Those who suffer from drug addiction or abuse may use illegal or prescription medications. In addition, those who have an underlying mental health condition are more likely to abuse drugs.

Eating Disorders

Anorexia nervosa, binge-eating, and bulimia are three types of eating disorders. They affect the way the patient thinks about food and their behaviors surrounding it. If left untreated, these conditions can lead to death.

Personality Disorders

These disorders include borderline, narcissistic, dependent, histrionic, obsessive-compulsive, schizoid, paranoid, avoidant, and antisocial personality disorders. These disorders are characterized by patterns of behavior or thought processes that are unhealthy and cause problems functioning in daily life.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD develops after exposure to a traumatic event and causes cognitive changes, altered mood, re-experiencing of symptoms, the feeling of being on edge, and avoidance of certain situations or triggers.

Bipolar Disorder

Patients with bipolar disorder experience extreme highs or lows in their emotional states that affect their ability to function normally. These states are described as being manic, hypomanic, or depressive.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is characterized by impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and an inability to focus. It’s more common in boys and often diagnosed during childhood.

Medications Commonly Used With Mental Health Conditions

Let’s go through some common medications used to treat mental health conditions that you may see used in mental health NCLEX questions. Review these meds for your NCLEX prep:

  • Antidepressant medications
    • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and tricyclics 
  • Anti-anxiety medications
    • Benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, and buspirone
  • Stimulant medications
    • Methylphenidate, amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, and lisdexamfetamine dimesylate
  • Antipsychotic medications
    • Risperidone, haloperidol, lurasidone, ziprasidone, and paliperidone
  • Mood stabilizing medications
    • Lithium carbonate
    • Anticonvulsants

Nursing Interventions and Assessments for Mental Health Conditions

A nurse with a child

When answering mental health NCLEX questions, keep in mind how to accurately assess your patient including the client’s perception, self-esteem, thought processes, and self-image. When assessing and gathering information on your patient, be sure to keep privacy top of mind. Ask family members or visitors to step out of the room to help your patient feel safe and build trust. In addition, if your patient isn’t cooperative you can always assess through observation.


Here’s how to assess a mental health patient:

  • Gather and review patient history
    • General lifestyle
    • Substance abuse
    • Family history
    • Client’s beliefs, psychiatric history, social interaction, and their medical history
  • Assess coping skills
    • Incorporate throughout your patient assessments to see where the patient may need additional interventions or resources like a support group outside of your facility
  • Assess the patient
    • Speech and language 
    • Affect
    • Behaviors
    • Emotions
    • Intellectual functioning
    • Appearance
    • Thought processes and content
    • Able to complete activities of daily living
  • Review laboratory values
    • While there aren’t many specific laboratory values to diagnose a psychiatric condition, there are labs used to evaluate the amount of psychotropic medication in a client’s bloodstream
  • Be aware of the following diagnostic procedures that may be ordered
    • Electroencephalogram (EEG), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), and positron emission tomography (PET)

Samples of Mental Health NCLEX Questions

Now that you better understand the kinds of topics to expect on the NCLEX for psychiatric or mental health NCLEX questions, let’s go over a few practice questions on mental health. After answering, you can review the answer rationale to gain some insight into why your answer was correct or incorrect. Be sure to frequently review NCLEX practice questions and have an understanding of the exam layout to help you answer questions exam day.


Mental Health NCLEX Question #1

You are the health care provider for a 6-year-old client with a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. His mother has brought him in for a refill of his medication. Which of the following medications would be most likely prescribed to this patient?


  1. Lurasidone
  2. Lithium carbonate
  3. Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate
  4. Fluoxetine


Answer: C — Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate is a stimulant medication commonly used to treat ADHD. It also goes by the brand name Vyvanse. Lurasidone is an antipsychotic medication. Lithium carbonate is used for bipolar disorder. Fluoxetine is an SSRI used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders.


Mental Health NCLEX Question #2

You are the nurse caring for a patient with a diagnosis of schizophrenia who is experiencing auditory hallucinations. How should you approach this situation?


  1. Ask the patient to stop 
  2. Let the patient know the voices are made up
  3. Call the doctor to get orders for an antianxiety medication
  4. Show kindness and compassion


Answer: D — Patients with schizophrenia experiencing auditory hallucinations are living in a frightening world where they have a difficult time distinguishing between what is real and what isn’t. It’s important that you show compassion towards these patients because, for them, everything is real. Building trust and using empathy is key here. It’s inappropriate to ask the patient to stop, tell them the voices are made up, and to call the doctor for new orders. If the patient isn’t a threat to themself or others, your job is to ensure the patient is safe and talk to them about it (if you’re able) using therapeutic communication.


Mental Health NCLEX Question #3

Your patient with generalized anxiety disorder has a benzodiazepine on her medication list. Which of the following side effects should you watch for in a patient taking a benzodiazepine?


  1. Drowsiness
  2. Hyperactivity
  3. Tachycardia
  4. Sweating


Answer: A — Drowsiness is a side effect of benzodiazepines. Hyperactivity, tachycardia, and sweating aren’t side effects of taking benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepine side effects include drowsiness, headache, depression, vision problems, confusion, dizziness, and trembling.


Mental Health NCLEX Question #4

You are caring for a patient experiencing the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and has a documented history of alcohol abuse. He tells you he doesn’t drink as much as you think and often doesn’t even get drunk. What defense mechanism is this patient using?


  1. Projection
  2. Sublimation
  3. Suppression
  4. Denial


Answer: D — Patients who are substance abusers often use denial as a defense mechanism. Projection, sublimation, and suppression are not described in this scenario. 

Ace the Mental Health NCLEX Questions

A nurse who has studied for her mental health NCLEX questions

Studying for mental health NCLEX questions is much like studying for other areas of nursing practice. Be sure you understand the key concepts and from there, move onto medications, other treatments, and nursing management. 


We suggest incorporating NCLEX practice questions into your studying sessions, which is why we set up the Daily NCLEX Challenge. Register to get a free NCLEX question delivered to your email each day.


If you’d like to really dig into mental health NCLEX questions including practice questions, sign up for the premium version. Here you can compete against your friends to move up the leaderboard and have the opportunity to win some fun nursing-related prizes. And the best part? You can increase your odds of passing the NCLEX! Who doesn’t want that?


Go register for the Daily NCLEX Challenge and get a head start on test prep.

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