Anxiety disorders have several different main causes. In some cases, the cause is biological; in other cases, the cause is emotional. In many cases, the cause is a combination of biological and emotional factors. Thus, diagnosing an anxiety disorder involves several steps to find out the specific causes in each case. If you feel that you’re suffering with an anxiety disorder, it’s important to seek the help of a medical professional. They can diagnose your anxiety and figure out the best forms of treatment for your specific situation.
What are the steps to diagnosing an anxiety disorder? First, a doctor will ask some specific questions to pin down your anxiety symptoms. Do you only feel anxious in certain situations (such as social engagements, performance situations, or while driving)? Do you feel a certain level of anxiety all of the time? Do you experience physical symptoms on top of your mental worry? Because there are different types of anxiety disorder, the doctor needs to determine which one you’re dealing with and the severity of the symptoms.
The doctor will also want to do a physical exam and find out about your family’s medical history. Anxiety disorders can be exacerbated by certain medical conditions and medications, so, if you have a physical health condition, it’s important that your doctor know.
They will also want to know about your lifestyle habits. Consuming certain substances such as caffeine and nicotine can trigger or intensify anxiety, so the doctor will want to know if you drink a lot of caffeinated beverages or smoke. Also, the doctor will want to know if your family has a history of anxiety disorders.
Once the doctor has determined any physical factors that might be causing your anxiety disorder, they will perform a psychiatric evaluation. They will talk to you about the symptoms you’re experiencing, their severity, when they first began, and how long you’ve been experiencing them. They might ask:
- Is your worry constant?
- Do you worry about everything, including minor problems and occurrences?
- Do you experience physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, shaking, sweating and nausea in social situations?
- When you think about your past, are there certain memories that cause you to feel more anxious?
These and other questions will help the therapist or medical professional determine the type of anxiety disorder you’re suffering from and the best line of treatment.
While there are several different types of anxiety disorder (generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder) and they have overlapping symptoms, it can be difficult for doctors to diagnose your disorder. It is also important to remember that anxiety disorders often occur together. You might have generalized anxiety disorder all of the time and feel a heightened sense of anxiety in social situations.
Not all worry is a sign of an anxiety disorder. Some individuals do not have excessive anxiety, yet they might feel that they worry too much or they worry to the point that it interferes with their ability to relax. Again, if you think that you might have an anxiety disorder, a doctor will be able to help you better determine whether the feelings you’re experiencing are simply worry or anxiety.
If you do not suffer with an anxiety disorder yet would like to take steps to deal with excessive worry, there are small actions you can perform to unwind. If making lifestyle changes—exercising, stretching, doing yoga, getting a good night’s rest and eating healthfully—don’t alleviate your feelings of worry, you might have an anxiety disorder.
For these reasons, it is of utmost importance that you discuss all of your symptoms of anxiety in as much detail as possible when speaking with a medical professional. Whatever anxious symptoms you are dealing with, there is help available.