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Assessment Tools for Anxiety

Assessment Tools for Anxiety

Everyone experiences worry and anxiety at some time. It’s described as a persistent and intense fear accompanied by increased breathing and heart rate, sweating, restlessness, irritability, inability to concentrate, shakiness, and occasionally, fatigue. Anxiety is an entirely normal emotion in appropriate situations such as taking a test, public speaking, making significant decisions, and before and during thrill-seeking activities. 

It can reasonably occur with “threatening” and positive events, which might also be compared to anticipation and excitement. The uncomfortable feeling tends to be short-lived, quickly fading when the “trigger” is over, normalized, or managed.

For many, however, the distress of anxiety is out of proportion, constant, and often generalized – that is, not in response to a particular trigger. This type of worry may be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder. The sensation can be overwhelming and disabling, interfering with daily activities and quality of life. It can also be hard to overcome or alleviate.  

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

What Are Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders include phobias and generalized, social, and panic anxiety disorders. The causes of these crippling conditions are varied. 

One theory is that brain circuits regulating emotions and fear become disordered. Changes in functioning could occur due to long-term or severe stress and trauma, which can alter how nerve cells transmit messages. Other suggestions include that those with anxiety disorders have brain changes related to compelling memories and emotions.

Phobias are related to specific triggers such as spiders, birds, or being in enclosed or open spaces. At the same time, social anxiety happens in situations where engaging with many strangers often creates tension. In contrast, panic attacks can occur at any time, often without an identified reason, while generalized anxiety tends to be ongoing regardless of the environment. 

The condition can be genetic, with environmental factors such as traumatic events contributing to anxiety issues. In the US, around one in every three adults (32%) report experiencing anxiety annually, with slightly more biological females than males affected. The prevalence of anxiety disorders is above average among the youth (ages 18-24), with half (49.9%) reporting symptoms. 

How Is Anxiety Disorder Assessed and Diagnosed?

How Is Anxiety Disorder Assessed and Diagnosed

When anxiety starts interfering with studies, work, and relationships, it’s time to visit a medical professional such as your general practitioner, licensed clinical social worker, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist.  

The medical professional will start by assessing your situation and symptoms. They will take a complete history, note any current medications (some can cause anxiety symptoms), conduct a physical examination, and order blood tests to rule out any physical causes. 

Possible underlying conditions contributing to feelings of anxiety include hypothyroidism, sleep apnea, systemic lupus erythematosus, and schizophrenia. Once physical illness is excluded, your doctor will continue with a psychological assessment, often using established and accepted anxiety assessment tools for adults.

Psychological Assessment for Anxiety

Psychological Assessment for Anxiety

As the condition is on a spectrum, and understanding any case of anxiety can be complex, every assessment must be tailored, flexible, and ongoing. An initial assessment includes formal and informal, objective and subjective observations, interviews, forms, and rating scales. 

Your specialist will ask in-depth questions about your and your family’s history of mood disorders, including depression and anxiety. They will ask about symptoms, onset dates, duration, severity, frequency, treatment, and outcomes, so you may want to gather this information beforehand. 

They will also assess your risk for related conditions such as eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This evaluation may include self-completing a questionnaire about how your symptoms impact you subjectively. Be as honest as possible; this will help your therapist understand your situation and help you feel better. 

To support an accurate and thorough diagnosis, you or your medical profession can rely on approved standardized or non-standardized anxiety assessment tools for adults

What Is an Anxiety Assessment Tool?

These instruments evaluate and score the presence, extent, and type of anxiety disorder and comorbidities. Individuals can use them to self-assess their symptoms to understand whether professional help is needed, or they can self-administer under the supervision of a professional.

The questionnaires can be designed for a general population, specific age groups, or applications, such as mood versus behavioral disorders. They are typically clinically validated for relevance, accuracy, reliability, and validity.  

Anxiety assessment tools, at their most basic, can identify whether you may have an anxiety disorder. They can also measure its severity and inform and monitor treatment protocols for professionals. 

The tools include rating scales, checklists of symptoms, and more extensive questionnaires. Beyond assessing negative emotions, the latter may consist of questions about home environment, employment, hobbies, interests, education level, work status, risk-taking behaviors and habits, and sexuality and relationships. 

The Personal Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9)

The Personal Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9)

This screening tool helps diagnose, track symptom severity, plan therapy, and monitor treatment effectiveness.

The Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7 – Item (GAD-7)

The Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7 - Item (GAD-7) 

The GAD-7 is an easy-to-use screening tool to assess anxiety. It was developed as an initial scale, scoring common anxiety symptoms.

The Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety (HAM-A)

The Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAM-A) helps quantify symptom severity required to evaluate psychotropic drug treatment. Fourteen items within the symptom series are rated on a five-point scale. 

Beck’s Depression Inventory (BDI)

Beck’s Depression Inventory (BDI)

Becks Depression Inventory is a self-report rating tool measuring 21 characteristic symptoms and attitudes of depression. It’s available in card and digital forms, in full, and in a 13-item short form. 

The Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS)

The Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS)

The Depression Anxiety Stress Scales is a self-report questionnaire designed to measure often-related stress, tension, depression, and anxiety. It measures these negative emotional states using a comprehensive 42-item instrument in standard and youth variants.

The Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS)

The Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS)

The Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale is a ten-item, five-point scale screening tool to help determine symptom severity and assess whether professional assistance is warranted.

Most of these scales are available in the public domain as online or downloadable files. However, for individuals and facilitators, how do you select the proper assessment tool and apply it appropriately? Here’s an assortment of books to assist in approaching self or patient anxiety management. 

Best Books for Adult Anxiety

Books written with knowledge, experience, and wisdom are an ideal way to learn more about the condition and how to build coping skills. According to PsychCentral, the best publications for individuals with anxiety include: 

Unwinding Anxiety: 

New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind

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Unwinding Anxiety: Train Your Brain to Heal Your Mind
  • Judson Brewer (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 03/11/2021 (Publication Date) - Vermilion (Publisher)

Written by a neuroscientist, Judson Brewer (MD, PhD), Unwinding Anxiety has mindfulness at its core, with personal experience, research-based practices, and step-by-step guidance. 

What We Like: Be Aware of:  
Easy to understand

Based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Up-to-date science
Reference to animal studies

Essential Strategies for Social Anxiety: 

Practical Techniques to Face Your Fears, Overcome Self-Doubt, and Thrive

Essential Strategies for Social Anxiety: Practical Techniques to Face Your Fears, Overcome Self-Doubt, and Thrive
  • McKleroy MA LMFT, Alison (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 08/18/2020 (Publication Date) - Callisto (Publisher)

Real-life examples, science-based strategies, and practical tools are here to help anyone with an anxiety disorder or everyday anxiety work through their fears. Beyond CBT, Essential Strategies for Social Anxiety incorporates acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), helping to marry the knowledge shared with its application in daily life.

What We Like: Be Aware of:  
Thorough yet concise.

The author is a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Easy to use with conveniently color-coded sections.
Some may find the exposure therapy exercises daunting.

Mind Over Mood, Second Edition: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think

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Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think
  • Greenberger, Dennis (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 341 Pages - 10/15/2015 (Publication Date) - The Guilford Press (Publisher)

Mind Over Mood is a therapist-recommended framework of strategies to help ease anxiety. The book is easy to understand and use—you can apply learned skills immediately and review progress regularly to build confidence. 

What We Like: Be Aware of:  
Includes emotion rating scales and gratitude journaling.

Embraces mindfulness-based CBT.

Also addresses anger, low self-esteem, and depression.
May not delve deeply enough for some

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

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When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
  • Chodron, Pema (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages - 06/07/2016 (Publication Date) - Shambhala (Publisher)

This easy-to-digest book offers “pearls of wisdom” that can be referred to whenever needed. With short, to-the-point chapters, the author views problems through a Buddhist lens, helping to bring meaning, clarity, and comfort. 

What We Like: Be Aware of:  
Realistic and accessible.

Accommodates all belief systems.
Font in printed versions may be too small for some.

Audio version pace may be too slow. 

Titles were evaluated and recommended based on author qualifications, science-backed strategies, therapist advocacy, and reader reviews. 

How Are Anxiety Disorders Managed?

Beyond therapeutic and psychiatric intervention and psychoeducation via assessments and publications, preventing and managing anxiety can include stress-relieving solutions. These lifestyle factors encompass exercise, meditation, breathwork, yoga, aromatherapy, and avoiding or managing triggers. It can also help ensure that your diet is healthy and nutritious and that you get enough sleep.

Disclaimer: Last update on 2024-06-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.

This content is provided solely for educational reasons and should not be seen as medical guidance. It’s important to consult with a healthcare expert prior to making any changes to your health regimen, including dietary adjustments or the use of supplements.

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