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Diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is diagnosed based on a clinical assessment performed by a health care professional, usually a physician or psychologist.  This assessment includes an interview with the patient and a review of any previous assessments in their medical records, and can also include an interview with the patient's family members or close friends.  The goal of this assessment is to determine whether the patient meets the clinical criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder based on the reports that they or their family members and friends provide. 

There are no laboratory tests or imaging tests (such as CT scans or MRI scans) that can help make a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. However, these sorts of tests are important in order to rule-out any other general medical conditions that could be causing symptoms.

Differential Diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

There are some medical conditions that can cause symptoms that mimic those of GAD. Some of these conditions include:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder should also be differentiated from other common psychiatric conditions where excessive worries or anxiety can occur, but always in relation to a very specific issue:

Diagnostic Tools for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

There are certain scales and questionnaires that can aid mental health professionals in tracking the progress of Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

The Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety (HAM-A) is a scale that is completed by a clinician or trained rater to document the severity of a person's general anxiety symptoms. Out of a total of 56, a score between 18-24 indicated mild-to-moderate symptoms, 24-30 corresponds to moderate-to-severe symptoms, and scores above 30 indicate severe symptoms.

The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory is a self-report questionnaire that helps to differentiate between symptoms of anxiety that are temporary and related to a specific situation, versus those that are experienced generally and over a prolonged period of time. There is a child and adult version of this instrument.


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Symptoms & Definition