Anxiety Tests & Diagnosis

Published: February 2, 2012

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Many conditions contribute to the physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety. You might feel anxious because of an underlying disorder that you did not previously know about, or you may feel anxious because of a phobia or state of mind. Because the condition is complex with ambiguous causes, the task of diagnosing anxiety is oftentimes a challenge for medical professionals.

Anxiety disorders are chronic conditions that cause repeated patterns of behavior. You may have experienced symptoms for a number of years, or your anxiety attacks may have begun after a traumatic event such as an illness or death of a loved one.

Clinical depression is common among anxiety patients, so it can be difficult to distinguish which condition is predominant. If you have anxiety, especially because of posttraumatic stress disorder, you may have a diminished sex drive, experience premature ejaculation, have problems of erectile dysfunction, or feel pain during intercourse. These symptoms are common among men and women.

Although these symptoms may be difficult for you to confront and talk about, you should discuss them with your doctor. To make an accurate diagnosis, you should be honest about any unusual symptoms, even if you don't think they are related to anxiety.

Questionnaires

Medical professionals need some direction when testing patients for anxiety. By asking you questions about your health, medical history, mental history, and family medical history, your doctor can identify any clues that point towards a medical or psychological reason for your symptoms.

The doctor might ask you some questions that are personal in nature in order to determine any patterns and to understand the extent of your condition. These questions might be difficult to answer, and it is important to let the doctor know if you are feeling uncomfortable for any reason. The person who is asking you questions will be sensitive to your situation and will try to be as accommodating as possible.

Anxiety affects people of all ages, even children. If you are a parent of a child who is seeking treatment for anxiety, do not be alarmed should the doctor politely ask you to leave the room while your child answers diagnostic questions. The doctor is just being sensitive to the fact that your child may feel more comfortable when answering questions in private. No matter what, if you feel uncomfortable for any reason, you have the right to refuse treatment on behalf of your child. Try to have an open discussion with your child before going to the doctor.

Depending on the symptoms present, the doctor might ask follow up questions as a test for ADD or ADHD.

Mental Health Assessment

When doctors suspect that you have anxiety, they will refer you to a psychiatric professional for a mental health exam. Psychologists and psychiatrists will use specialized techniques to better understand what is causing your symptoms. The mental health professional will review whether your symptoms point to an anxiety disorder and whether the anxiety disorder has caused you to experience any social disability.

To be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, your symptoms need to be present for at least six months. The symptoms must interfere with your daily life in some way.

Blood Tests

Using a blood test, a doctor will try to determine whether certain physical conditions are causing anxiety. Blood tests help diagnose a variety of conditions that are related to heart problems, thyroid conditions, and diabetes. Hyperthyroidism and high levels of insulin are two conditions that can cause physical symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks. Hypertension, or chronic high blood pressure, can also cause problems related to anxiety.

There are no laboratory tests that diagnose anxiety, specifically. Instead, tests can help identify or rule out other conditions.

Urine Tests

For the most part, doctors use urine tests to measure drug concentration levels in your system. Chronic use of opiates, amphetamines, and barbiturates can cause or exacerbate symptoms of anxiety.

Blood Pressure Tests

If you have anxiety, the doctor might ask you to undergo routine blood pressure monitoring tests to confirm whether you are at risk for developing hypertension, a condition that causes chronic high blood pressure.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

An EEG is a test that is used to monitor the brain's electric currents. Doctors might order this test if they suspect that epilepsy is causing the patient's anxiety.

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