Generalized Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis

(Also Known As: Panic Attack Diagnosis, Chronic Anxiety Diagnosis, Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis, Severe Anxiety Disorder Anxiety Diagnosis)

(Reviewed by: Paul Peterson, Licensed Therapist)

How is Generalized Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed?

In order to Diagnose Generalized Anxiety Disorder the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Illness (DSM-IV) criteria must be met as follow:

  1. There is an excessive worry and anxiety occurring more days than not for at least 6 months.
  2. There is difficulty to control the worry.
  3. The worry and anxiety are associated with 3 or more of the following symptoms that are present for more days than not, for at least 6 months:
    • Easily fatigued
    • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
    • Muscle tension
    • Irritability
    • Difficulty in staying or falling asleep/restless unsatisfied sleep
    • Difficulty concentrating

There are also specific characteristics of Generalized Anxiety Disorder that makes it distinguishable from other anxiety disorders:

  • The focus of the anxiety and worry in a person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder is not confined to the features of an Axis 1 disorder, such as those caused by panic attacks seen from Panic Disorder, Social Phobia, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa, Hypochondriasis, Somatization Disorder, and the anxiety and worry do not occur exclusively during Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • The anxiety experienced by the person is not directly caused by the physiological effects of a substance and medication or by any general medical condition, such as hyperthyroidism. The anxiety should not also occur exclusively during mood disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, and any psychotic disorder.5
  • The physical distress caused by anxiety and excessive worrying clinically cause significant distress and impairment on the individual’s social, personal, and occupational activities.

The evaluation of the person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder consists of a thorough medical and psychological assessment. Clinicians will usually ask the patient about their worries, fears, and their general emotional well-being.6 They will also likely ask about the person’s obsessions in order to rule out Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Other psychological evaluation tools will be used, such as psychological questionnaires. The patient will undergo general physical evaluation to check for any standing health problems that could likely cause Generalized Anxiety Disorder to obtain a comprehensive treatment.

Early evaluation and diagnosis is important in order to prevent the progression of the condition which can lead to the development of other serious complications, such as the occurrence of depression, insomnia, substance abuse, teeth grinding (bruxism), bowel or digestive problems, and headaches.

The diagnosis for Generalized Anxiety Disorder must be differentiated from the following conditions which may manifest the common symptoms of anxiety: 7

  • Anxiety as a result of an organic cause
  • Anxiety triggered by specific situations
  • Normal anxiety in response to stress

Could You Have Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Topics

Related Conditions

Panic Disorder – Panic Attack, Anxiety, Anticipatory Attacks
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – Nightmares, Insomnia, Sexual Abuse, Irritation, Social Impairment, Problems with Memory and Concentration, Intrusive Memories, Hyper-Vigilance
Social Anxiety Disorder – Social Anxiety, Impaired Functional Ability, Chronic Fear of Being Humiliated in Public, Panic Attack