How are anxiety disorders diagnosed?

If symptoms are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by performing a complete medical history and physical examination.

Although there are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose anxiety disorders, the doctor might use various diagnostic tests to rule out physical illness as the cause of the symptoms.

If no physical illness is found, the person might be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist, mental health professionals who are specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Psychiatrists and psychologists use specially designed interview and assessment tools to evaluate a person for an anxiety disorder. The doctor bases his or her diagnosis on the patient's report of the intensity and duration of symptoms — including any problems with daily functioning caused by the symptoms — and the doctor's observation of the patient's attitude and behavior. The doctor then determines if the patient's symptoms and degree of dysfunction indicate a specific anxiety disorder. The standard reference manual used for the diagnosis of recognized mental illnesses in the United States is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

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