Diagnosing Anxiety Disorders in Adults

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress that most people experience throughout their lives. A person may feel anxious when speaking in public, taking a test, or making an important life decision. But if the anxiety is more than temporary worry or fear, does not go away, or worsens over time, this may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

NYU Langone specialists offer expert diagnosis of anxiety disorders, which are common mental health conditions that can interfere with daily activities, affecting your performance at work and school as well as your relationships.

If you experience any symptoms of an anxiety disorder, see your doctor or a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker.

To diagnose an anxiety disorder, a doctor performs a physical exam, asks about your symptoms, and recommends a blood test, which helps the doctor determine if another condition, such as hypothyroidism, may be causing your symptoms.

The doctor may also ask about any medications you are taking. Certain medications may cause symptoms of anxiety. These include levodopa, a medication used to manage Parkinson’s disease, and cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant used to prevent the progression of rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.

Anxiety may also accompany medical conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus, sleep apnea, and schizophrenia. NYU Langone psychiatrists collaborate with other specialists, such as internists, cardiologists, and neurologists, to manage any medical conditions that occur in conjunction with anxiety.

If the doctor does not find an underlying cause of the symptoms, he or she performs a psychological evaluation.

Psychological Evaluation

During a psychological evaluation, a specialist asks if you have a family history of an anxiety disorder or depression. He or she asks about your symptoms—when they started, how long they have lasted, how severe they are, whether they have occurred before, and, if so, how they were treated. In addition, he or she may ask you to complete a questionnaire, which asks about the ways your symptoms affect your life.

Other psychological conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders, may accompany anxiety disorders. For this reason, the specialist also asks questions that allow him or her to evaluate whether another psychological condition could be affecting you.

After the specialist assesses your symptoms and family history, he or she conducts a feedback session, during which you and the doctor discuss the diagnosis and most appropriate treatment options.

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