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Diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

It can be hard to know if something is normal anxiety or GAD. There are also other health problems that may cause anxiety. This can make GAD hard to diagnose.

The doctor will ask questions and look for a pattern of problems in the answers. This will be done with a mental health screening tool. The symptoms must be present for at least 6 months.

Initial Assessment

The doctor will ask about worries, anxiety, “nerves,” stress, and other symptoms. The person will be asked how often they have had symptoms.

Acute anxiety lasts from hours to weeks. It is often linked to a specific problem. Chronic anxiety lasts from months to years. It may be considered a part of someone's personality. This type of anxiety is not often connected to a particular event.

Evaluation of Health Problems

The doctor will look for other health problems that can cause anxiety, such as:

The doctor may also ask about medicine, herbal supplements , and vitamins. The person may be asked to stop taking them for a while. This is to see if they may be causing the symptoms. Medicines that may cause or worsen anxiety include:

  • Steroids
  • Over-the-counter cold remedies and diet pills
  • Antidepressants
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Digoxin
  • Thyroxine
  • Theophylline

Evaluation for Substance Abuse

Use or withdrawal from addictive substances can cause anxiety. Your doctor may ask about your use of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, addictive medicines (such as sedatives), illegal drugs, and other substances.

Evaluation of Other Psychiatric Disorders

Anxiety may be a symptom of another mental health illness. Another illness may also exist with GAD. The person may be screened for:


  • Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml.
  • DeMartini J, Patel G, Fancher TL. Generalized anxiety disorder. Ann Intern Med. 2019;170(7):ITC49-ITC64.
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/generalized-anxiety-disorder.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/generalized-anxiety-disorder.


  • Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.