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How are anxiety disorders diagnosed?

Anxiety disorders are diagnosed based on specific criteria in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association. Like all mental illnesses, every anxiety disorder has a separate set of criteria. Your mental health provider will evaluate your symptoms based on the DSM checklist, and a diagnosis usually depends on how long you've had your symptoms, their severity, and how many symptoms you have in combination.
Doctors use several different tools to learn about anxiety disorders and make a diagnosis:
  • Questionnaires. Your doctor may use questionnaires (forms) to check for anxiety and other mental health problems. The questionnaires ask about your symptoms, stress, coping style, and support system.
  • Medical history. Your doctor asks about your past and present illnesses and your family history.
  • Physical exam. An exam helps your doctor know if your symptoms come from something other than an anxiety disorder.
  • Guidelines for diagnosis. Your doctor compares your information to standard medical definitions for mental health disorders.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.