Diagnosing Anxiety Disorders

Do you worry excessively? Would you consider your habits maladaptive? That means that they do more harm than good (their positive effects are temporary). Are your symptoms preventing you from being fully present or completing personal or work-related tasks? If you answered yes, you more than likely have an anxiety disorder.

Who Makes Your Diagnosis?

After you decide to get help, you will need to find a qualified professional specializing in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. Usually, these professionals are psychiatrists or psychologists.

Both work in the mental health field. But, psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental conditions and can prescribe medications. Psychologists, on the other hand, cannot prescribe medication. They can, however, teach you strategies to help manage your condition. 

There is not a definitive process for diagnosing anxiety conditions. Currently, interviews and tests are the primary methods of diagnosing anxiety disorders. To be prepared for your visit, your mental health practitioner (specialist, psychologist, or psychiatrist) will take the following steps:

  • Complete a Clinical Evaluation. Many conditions can occur with your anxiety or present like it without actually being an anxious condition. Your health professional may use the evaluation to get more of your medical history and complete tests to help rule out those conditions. 
  • Conduct an interview. Interviews are an easy way for licensed mental health professionals to diagnose you with an anxiety disorder. The interview happens alone (you and the professional) or with your care team/family members 1. Often, the professionals use this information along with that obtained through other diagnostic tools and procedures. 
  • Complete Scales and Questionnaires. Scales and questionnaires are valuable tools for diagnosing anxiety disorders. Some of these tools obtain general information about your or your loved one’s physical and mental health, while others are more specific to a condition. You can complete some of these tools yourself or on behalf of someone else 4 5. Some examples of the scales and questionnaires you may complete include:

Why Do You Need a Diagnosis?

In the long run, undiagnosed or untreated mental health conditions contribute to higher medical costs, low productivity, activity limitations, and poor life quality. The best way to reverse this is to get your diagnosis as early as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment 2 are crucial for regaining control of your condition and improving your health.