10 Ways to Self Diagnose an Anxiety Disorder

Do you find yourself feeling anxious, nervous, identify as "type A", or feel you have OCD? Do your friends, family, or others tell you that you are too "wound up"? Is it possible for a child to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder?

Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health disorder in the U.S.? (Source: National Institute of Mental Health) About 40 million adults (18+ years old) in the U.S. are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (18% of the population) and only 1/3 of those are receiving treatment. Anxiety Disorders are proven to be easily treated through mental health therapy and medication management, as needed. 

Anxiety Disorder is an umbrella term for multiple diagnoses including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Specific Phobias, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Today, I am focusing on Generalized Anxiety Disorder which affects 6.8 million adults (3.1% the population) in the U.S. Women are twice as likely to be affected than men are. (Source: Anxiety and Depression Association of America)

  Photo: Kirsten Amundsen

Photo: Kirsten Amundsen

The following are 10 ways you can screen yourself or a loved one for Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

1. You feel excessive anxiety or worry most days of the week about a number of events or activities.

-Some examples of the events or activities you worry about could be school performance or work performance. 

-You have been experiencing these worries for at least 6 months. 

2. You have a hard time controlling or stopping your worrying.

-You might find that your thoughts are racing or snowballing one after the next until it feels overwhelming. 

3. You feel restless or on edge.

-It could be hard for you to sit still at times and you might have trouble relaxing.

4. You feel a lack of energy. 

-Even if you had a good nights sleep, you still feel fatigued during the day. 

5. You have a hard time concentrating or focusing on one thing at a time. Or you find your mind going blank at times.

-A lack of concentration is a common indicator of an anxiety disorder. This can also have a big impact on work or school performance. Some people find themselves becoming forgetful and overwhelmed. 

6. You feel yourself becoming more irritable.

-This is a common indicator of an anxiety disorder in children. 

-Adults can also find themselves becoming irritable and having less patience towards others.

7. Your muscles feel tense.

-Experiencing anxiety can have physical impacts as well. Often, people with anxiety will experience muscle tension.

8. You have trouble sleeping.

-There can be many reasons that you are not sleeping. Often, when someone is anxious they will have a hard time falling asleep due to worries and racing thoughts. Other times, people with anxiety might experience waking up in the middle of the night and have a hard time falling back asleep. 

9. Your worries or anxiety cause a significant impact on your social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. 

-It is possible that you might be experiencing some of the symptoms listed here, but it might not be impacting your life in a negative way. There are also different levels of anxiety (mild, moderate, severe). Usually, people with mild Generalized Anxiety Disorder will find that they are able to do well in school, work, or other important areas of functioning. It is most important to treat an anxiety disorder when it is impacting your life in a way that you do not want it to (i.e. avoiding things, losing friendships, doing poorly in school or work, etc.)

10. It is important that the above items are not caused by substance use or another medical condition.

-Some drugs or substances are known to cause anxiety symptoms. If you are currently using any substances and experiencing anxiety, it is advised to discontinue your substance use to see if your anxious symptoms subside. 

-A very common drug that people use is caffeine, which can increase anxious symptoms. It is advisable to decrease your caffeine intake if you are experience anxious symptoms. 

 

According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), you need to meet most of these points in order to have a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. For children (under age 18), they need to meet less criteria in order to have a diagnosis. 

If you find you meet the criteria for a Generalized Anxiety Disorder, it is advised to seek help to learn how to decrease your anxiety or worries so that you can lead a better daily life. 

 

Courtney Glashow, LCSW


About the Author:

Courtney Glashow, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Jersey City, New Jersey. She specializes in children and adolescent issues, and young adult counseling.

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