What is Involved in an Anxiety Diagnosis?

B. Miller

Unfortunately, there are no specific medical tests that can be given when a doctor is trying to determine an anxiety diagnosis. In addition, there are a number of different anxiety disorders that include different symptoms and behavioral patterns, so it can be a bit of a lengthy process trying to determine what type of anxiety a patient specifically has. Typically, an anxiety diagnosis will begin with a visit to a psychologist or psychiatrist; he or she will ask the client a number of questions to determine the severity of the anxiety, the length of time the client has been experiencing the anxiety, and the ways it impacts daily life, among others.

A person who has an anxiety disorder may worry excessively.
A person who has an anxiety disorder may worry excessively.

Based on the client's honest answers to these questions, the doctor can begin making a preliminary anxiety diagnosis. He or she will typically need to spend more time interacting with the patient to get to know him or her, and be able to better determine how the anxiety presents itself in everyday life. Some mental health professionals will also recommend that a client visit a general physician for an overall physical examination to rule out any specific medical conditions or illnesses as the cause for the anxiety. Hyperthyroidism, for example, can be a leading cause of feelings of stress and anxiety, but once the disease is treated successfully and managed, the anxious symptoms will generally go away.

People who have a hard time sleeping at night might seek out treatment for anxiety.
People who have a hard time sleeping at night might seek out treatment for anxiety.

If all the medical tests come back normal, then a complete anxiety diagnosis will typically be completed by a mental health professional. It may take a few sessions to determine the specific type of anxiety disorder that one is experiencing. For instance, one may experience generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, or panic attacks, all of which may or may not have a specific cause. Obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are other types of anxiety disorders that more often have a specific trigger.

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An anxiety diagnosis usually begins with a visit to a psychiatrist or psychologist.
An anxiety diagnosis usually begins with a visit to a psychiatrist or psychologist.

When making an anxiety diagnosis, the psychologist or psychiatrist will try to learn as much about the client as possible, as well as any recent events that may have contributed to the anxiety. Certainly not all anxiety disorders have a quantifiable cause, but getting to the root of a problem is one of the most effective ways to resolve it. The period of time over which the client has been feeling anxious enough to have it disrupt his or her life is another good indicator for an anxiety diagnosis. It is important to be as specific as possible when speaking with someone about an anxiety diagnosis, so he or she can consider the symptoms, and offer a treatment plan to start feeling better as soon as possible.

A person with social anxiety may feel uncomfortable interacting in a small group setting.
A person with social anxiety may feel uncomfortable interacting in a small group setting.
There is not one specific stressor that causes anxiety in generalized anxiety disorder.
There is not one specific stressor that causes anxiety in generalized anxiety disorder.
Checking the time frequently is one sign of being anxious.
Checking the time frequently is one sign of being anxious.
There are no medical tests for anxiety.
There are no medical tests for anxiety.

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