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Anxiety can feel like different things to different people. Some simply feel ill, like they have the flu. Others may experience symptoms similar to an asthma attack or even a heart attack. Still others may be irritable or worry all the time. How can you tell what your anxiety symptoms mean?
Probably one of the most straightforward ways to find out whether anxiety is playing a role in how you’re feeling is to take one of many anxiety tests or questionnaires. In fact, if you go to your doctor complaining of symptoms that relate to anxiety, he may give you one of these tests. There are several to choose from, including the following:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item (GAD-7) Scale
- Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A)
- Zung Self-Rating Anxiety Scale (SAS)
- Primary Care PTSD Screen (PC-PTSD)
- Life Event Checklist (LEC)
- Patient Stress Questionnaire
- State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI)
- Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI)
- Hospital Anxiety And Depression Scale-Anxiety (HADS-A)
Some of these tests are ones you take by yourself, and some you take with the supervision or help of a medical professional. After you complete an anxiety test, a professional will need to score the results to see whether you suffer from an anxiety condition.
It’s important to understand that these anxiety tests are not 100 percent accurate. They simply provide an indication of whether or not your symptoms are likely related to an anxiety disorder and, in some cases, help identify which specific anxiety disorder might be troubling you. From there, your doctor can decide if more testing is warranted or if it makes sense to start looking into specific treatments.
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Another role that tests play in patients with anxiety symptoms is to rule out other causes of distress. There are many medical conditions that can produce anxiety as a symptom. The following tests can be used to help identify or rule out these conditions:
- Thyroid function test
- Blood levels of iron and sugar
- Glucose tolerance test
- Lung function test
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) to evaluate the electrical activity of your heart
- Echocardiogram to look at the structure of your heart
- Endoscopy to look for stomach issues
Your healthcare provider may order several tests or no tests at all. It all depends on the symptoms you have, your medical history, and your risk factors for other illnesses. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor why he or she chose to order certain tests and not others.
Originally posted in May 2016 and updated.