Diagnosing Generalized Anxiety Disorder

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 18,416
    Psychologist Douglas Mennin, PhD, talks about how doctors diagnose generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD. If you’ve worried chronically on more days than not about a variety of everyday problems for at least six months, you may receive a GAD diagnosis.

    Dr. Douglas Mennin: I'm Dr. Douglas Mennin, psychologist and a professional member of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. Today we are discussing stress and anxiety. And now, I want to talk about how we diagnose GAD.

    If you suspect you might have GAD, you can screen yourself at the ADAA website, www.adaa.org. You'll answer a short series of questions about what troubles you, your feelings, and other symptoms, and then print out the results. Take these to share when you consult a mental health professional for a diagnosis. No laboratory test exists to specially diagnose an anxiety disorder.

    So a doctor or a mental health professional diagnosing GAD asks questions about your medical history and experiences with some of your problems. A doctor bases a GAD diagnosis on your report of the intensity and the duration of your symptoms and the degree of dysfunction. And he or she will try to determine if your symptoms are part of another mental disorder or due to a substance or medical issue. GAD is diagnosed if you've worried chronically on more days than not about a variety of everyday problems for at least six months.

    Most people worry about certain things, but their anxiety usually corresponds to the situation. A diagnosis of GAD is determined if chronic worrying interferes daily living, such as causing miss work or school. Further, if you have a very difficult struggle to regain control, relax, or manage anxiety and worry, that usually indicates GAD.

    Also GAD is diagnosed if for most days, over the previous six months, you've experienced three or more of the following symptoms: feeling wound up, tensed, or restless; being easily fatigued or worn out; having trouble concentrating; feeling irritable; significant muscle aches and tensions; difficulty falling or staying asleep. Additional physical symptoms that often accompany GAD may include headaches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, having to go to the bathroom frequently, feeling out of breath, and hot flashes. But these symptoms will abate when you're treated with GAD.

    If you like to learn more, visit www.adaa.org and check out our other videos on anxiety and anxiety disorders, including treatment options.