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.
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:
- Hypoglycemia—low blood sugar
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic pain conditions
- Cushing disease
- Mitral valve prolapse
- Carcinoid syndrome
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Heart failure
- Tourette syndrome
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:
- Over-the-counter cold remedies and diet pills
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
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
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