Top 9 diagnostic tests for anxiety/panic disorder

As humans, we all have our worries and fears. We all are apprehensive about things at one point of time in life or other. However, for some people, these apprehensions may result in anxiety, which is a vague and unpleasant feeling of fear. For few others, this may take a worse form of panic disorder in which an individual may have recurrent anxiety attacks wherein he/she may experience intense terror. Although, both anxiety and panic disorders are common among the population, but their diagnosis is essential for proper treatment so that the individual can easily adjust to his/her environment. Here, we have listed the most commonly used tests, which can be used alone or in combination to diagnose anxiety or panic disorder. Once, the disorder is diagnosed, appropriate therapy and approaches must be used to deal with it.

1. Diagnosis through evaluation of symptoms

A professional can diagnose whether an individual has anxiety or panic disorder or not based on the symptoms. Generally, people with anxiety tend to show a combination of symptoms like rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, diarrhea, tremors, dizziness, sweating and sleeplessness along with loss of appetite, fainting spells and frequent urination. People with panic disorder may show symptoms like a panic attack wherein he/she may have an abrupt surge of intense anxiety when a particular stimuli is present. They may also present clinical symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling, palpitations, discomfort and fear of losing control or dying. An individual who is apparently suffering from any of these disorders will have to visit a professional at least twice before a proper diagnosis.

2. Laboratory tests

To diagnose anxiety or panic disorder, an individual will have to go through a variety of laboratory tests to measure his/her body’s response towards different stimuli. Factors like heartbeat, blood pressure, and galvanic skin response may be noted. The abdomen may be examined in case a person experiences loss of appetite and frequent urination. Body temperature and other vital signs may be noted in this examination. The results will help a professional diagnose the cause of the symptoms.

3. Medical history

Any individual who is apparently suffering from anxiety or panic disorder will have to provide his/her medical history to the professional. This medical history will include both physical and mental illnesses that the individual might have suffered in the past. Through physical medical history, the psychiatrist will try to ascertain whether the individual has any physical illnesses that might be causing the behavior. Through mental medical history, the professional will explore the possibility of whether the individual has any other specific anxiety disorder like social phobia, agoraphobia or post traumatic stress disorder.

4. Inquiries

The psychiatrist will make an inquiry wherein the patient or his/her family members are asked about any particular intake that the patient may be having which could result in anxiety symptoms. The professional will inquire about the individual’s caffeine intake and whether he/she has ever taken any over the counter medicines or herbal remedies that may have triggered anxiety. Inquiries with the family members will also be made to understand the individual’s environment and stressors that may be causing anxiety or panic attacks. This method is a non-invasive procedure and the family member(s) will have to make one visit to a health worker.

5. Intervention by a neurologist

If the medical reports or medical history of an individual indicate that he/she has a family history of seizures that might induce panic attack symptoms, then a neurologist will have to intervene. The neurologist would ask the individual to undergo tests such as EEG or CT scans to ensure whether the disorder has physical or mental causes. For an EEG, a person will have to stay at the hospital overnight. Although the procedure is non-invasive and painless, it requires some time for completion.

6. Anxiety Screening Test

This is a common online test which is used to test the symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder. It does not require any visit to a medical professional and is relatively easy. But, for a proper diagnosis, the test results must be presented to a licensed mental health practitioner. The test has ten questions that are related to tension, concentration and the patient’s reaction to a variety of situations. The individual is supposed to respond in yes or no to all these questions.

7. Anxiety Quiz

This is another test that can be used with a variety of other procedures to understand whether a person is suffering from an anxiety disorder. The test is a screening measure that could be used to understand whether an individual requires professional attention or not. The test includes small statements and the person has to rate the statements on a 5 point scale, wherein one end indicates ‘usually’ while the other end indicates ‘never’. The test is available online and the results are confidential.

8. Observation

A clinician may observe a patient over a period of time, wherein the clinician may make note of symptoms related to anxiety or panic disorder. While the patient is under observation, the professional will also try to ascertain the type of anxiety, such as phobia, generalized anxiety disorder or post traumatic stress disorder, the individual is suffering from. Observation will also help the clinician know the causes or factors which trigger the symptoms that lead to anxiety related behavior. Observation is a non-invasive method, but it requires several visits to the health professional so that a diagnosis for the symptoms can be arrived at and therapeutic approaches to deal with it can be provided.

9. Interview

The clinician may interview the patient to ascertain the behavioral symptoms and causes. Questions such as, ‘How do you feel when you have to work under a deadline?’ or ‘Do you get terribly scared when you are asked to express your opinions in public?’ may be asked. These questions can provide the professional an insight into the personality and behavioral characteristics of the individual. The professional can then arrive at a conclusion as to whether the patient suffers from anxiety or panic disorder. In addition, this will help him make a psychological assessment of the patient.

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