Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your mental health provider will take a number of steps to help diagnose generalized anxiety disorder. He or she may start by asking detailed questions about your symptoms and medical history. In some cases, mental health providers use psychological questionnaires to help identify what's going on. Your doctor may also do a physical examination to look for signs that your anxiety might be linked to an underlying medical condition.

To be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, you must meet criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association and is used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.

The following criteria must be met for a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder:

  • Excessive anxiety and worry about several events or activities most days of the week, for at least six months
  • Difficulty controlling your feelings of worry
  • Anxiety or worry that causes you significant distress or interferes with your daily life
  • Anxiety that isn't related to another mental health condition, such as panic attacks, substance abuse or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • At least three of the following symptoms in adults and one of the following in children: restlessness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, irritability, muscle tension or sleep problems

Generalized anxiety disorder often occurs along with other mental health problems, which can make diagnosis and treatment more challenging. Some disorders that commonly occur with generalized anxiety disorder include:

  • Phobias
  • Panic disorder
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

If your doctor suspects your anxiety may have a medical cause, he or she may order blood or urine tests or other tests to look for signs of a physical problem.

Sep. 08, 2011

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