Everybody feels anxious and worried sometimes 一 it’s part of being human. But when do these feelings cross the line into being a clinically diagnosable mental health concern? How can you tell whether your worries are “normal” or whether you meet the criteria for an anxiety diagnosis?
Getting an accurate anxiety diagnosis is the first step to working toward recovery if anxiety is what you’re dealing with. Here is every step you need to take to get an initial anxiety diagnosis, and how to move forward after you get one.
Learn What Anxiety Is
The first step to getting officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder is to learn what anxiety is. This can help you start differentiating your everyday worries from symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
There are several types of anxiety disorders, but when we talk about “anxiety,” we’re usually referring to something called generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD. GAD is a clinically diagnosable mental health condition that requires treatment. The symptoms of GAD include:
➔ Excessive worries about a broad number of things, like work or school, that are difficult to control
➔ Frequently feeling restless or wired
➔ Having a hard time concentrating
➔ Fatigue or exhaustion due to your worries
➔ Physical symptoms like tension in your muscles or a racing heartbeat
➔ Difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep, or sleeping too much because you’re worrying
Most importantly, as with any diagnosable mental health condition, these symptoms must cause significant impairment in your life and daily functioning to be considered a mental illness. For example, perhaps your symptoms are hurting your relationships or making you unable to be productive at work.
GAD isn’t the only type of anxiety that you can be diagnosed with, though. Other, less common types of anxiety disorders include panic disorders, specific phobias, and social anxiety disorder. All of these disorders cause the same symptoms of anxiety but could vary in intensity (in the case of panic disorder) or revolve around a specific theme.
Record Your Symptoms
If you’ve learned what an anxiety disorder is and think you may be experiencing one, then start keeping a record of your symptoms. Record:
➔ The symptoms you experience. For example, do you have racing thoughts about something? Are you feeling physical symptoms like a fast heartbeat?
➔ What happened before you started experiencing the symptom? Is there a certain trigger?
➔ How severe the symptoms are. Are they severe enough to impact your functioning? For example, did you need to call out of work?
➔ What you did when the symptom appeared. What did you do to try to manage the feelings of anxiety? Were you able to calm your anxiety down on your own?
Having a record of your symptoms can give you some insight into your anxiety and how it manifests. It can also be a great tool to bring with you to your first mental health appointment so that your provider can get a detailed view of what your anxiety symptoms are like.
Set Up an Evaluation with a Mental Health Professional
Only mental health professionals are legally qualified to provide you with an official anxiety diagnosis. No matter how much you learn about anxiety disorders and your symptoms, you need to set up an evaluation with a mental health professional (like a therapist or a psychiatrist) to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
To evaluate you for an anxiety disorder, a mental health professional will ask you about your symptoms. This is where the record you’ve been keeping of your symptoms can be tremendously beneficial; some questions are hard to answer, and your record can help you remember exactly how you’ve been feeling.
The mental health professional will compare the symptoms you report to the clinical diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder. They might also ask you to complete a measurement tool or scale, like the Beck Anxiety Inventory. These measures can help providers get a more objective view of your symptoms.
It’s important to note that the mental health professional won’t only be evaluating you for an anxiety disorder. You may have assumed that you’re suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, but it could be that you’re actually dealing with another mental health condition, like obsessive-compulsive disorder, for example. Your mental health professional will be able to differentiate between anxiety and other mental health conditions and give you an accurate diagnosis.
Take Positive Action Toward Dealing with Your Anxiety
Getting a diagnosis for an anxiety disorder is only the first step in your mental health journey. Diagnoses are only useful to the extent to which they’re used for treatment. In other words, just getting diagnosed with anxiety won’t help you overcome your anxiety symptoms. To deal with your anxiety symptoms, you need to take action.
This is the same as any other health diagnosis. For example, if you were diagnosed with diabetes or cancer, the road to recovery wouldn’t end with the diagnosis. The diagnosis is only the beginning. The sooner you start working toward recovery, the better.
Your mental health provider should work with you in coming up with a treatment plan. This plan might include psychotherapy, anti-anxiety medications, and lifestyle changes like cutting back on caffeine or getting regular physical exercise. Remember that mindfulness and anxiety diagnoses go hand in hand. You have to be aware of how your anxiety functions (as your brain’s protection response) to overcome your symptoms.
Now that you’ve gotten a diagnosis, what do you plan to do about it? Talk to your mental health provider about what is in your control. What kind of action can you take in your life to start dealing with your anxiety symptoms? Remember that an anxiety diagnosis doesn’t have to stick for the rest of your life. Anxiety is a treatable illness, and there are steps you can take to beat it.
Anxiety Treatment in San Antonio
An anxiety diagnosis doesn’t have to be disheartening. Recovery from anxiety disorders is possible, and there is a healthy and fulfilling life waiting for you even after receiving an anxiety diagnosis.
If you’re in the San Antonio area and are looking for an initial anxiety diagnosis, reach out to our office to learn how we can help you. As a mental health center, we offer a comprehensive mental health approach to treating your anxiety. We’ll walk alongside you on your journey every step of the way, from the initial diagnosis to recovery.
Reach out to our Intake Department today to learn how we can support you as you learn to manage your anxiety: