Psychiatrists and other mental health clinicians use a multi-axial system of diagnosis. The multi-axial system, meaning making diagnoses on several different axes, is designed to address for biological illnesses, personality characteristics, medical illnesses, life stressors and to provide a score of overall functioning (known as the Global Assessment of Functioning, or GAF). The multi-axial diagnostic system has five axes:
Axis I: Clinical Disorders are diagnosed on Axis I. This can include mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, substance use disorders, disorders caused by general medical conditions and others
Axis II: Personality Disorders and Developmental Disorders (i.e. Mental Retardation) are diagnosed on Axis II.
Axis III: Physical medical conditions are diagnosed on Axis III.
Axis IV: Stressors that could be affecting Axis I diagnosis are noted on Axis IV.
Axis V: The Global Assessment of Functioning score is between 0-100 and measures a persons overall functioning.