Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent of all mental health disorders within the United States. But how does a person know if they have an anxiety disorder? While there are quizzes that can give a person an idea about their level of anxiety, an anxiety screening by a mental health professional is necessary for an anxiety disorder diagnosis.
While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association is still the gold standard in mental health diagnostics, there are several other tools based on this book that psychologists use to diagnose anxiety disorders. These tools are questionnaires that have been each validated by years of research.
Anxiety Screening Tools
There are several anxiety screening tools that mental health professionals use. Some tools are better designed to detect specific disorders, like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). These tools are validated through research testing validity (such as construct validity – does this tool measure what it claims to measure) and reliability (such as test/retest reliability – can a person take the test multiple times and get the same result). The following are some common anxiety screening tools.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7 (GAD-7)
The seven-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-7) is a self-report questionnaire. patients answer seven questions related to the frequency of anxiety behaviors they have experienced during the last two weeks on a 0-3 scale. Scores of 5, 10, and 15 are taken as the cut-off points for mild, moderate and severe anxiety.
A study involving more than 5000 participants has shown that this questionnaire is internally consistent. Additionally, it is both reliable and has good construct validity. Other research supports the GAD-7 as a valid and efficient tool for screening for generalized anxiety disorder and assessing its severity in both the clinic and research settings.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder Severity Scale (GADSS)
The six‐item Generalized Anxiety Disorder Severity Scale (GADSS) is similar to the GAD-7 in that it is a self-report questionnaire where, patients answer questions about their anxiety on a 0-4 scale. What makes the GADSS anxiety questionnaire a little different is that it measures both the frequency and intensity of anxiety symptoms.
The GADDS also has high internal reliability and good construct validity. Research has also shown that the GADSS is a valid measure of GAD symptom severity in older adults.
Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI)
The Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) is a 21-item self-report inventory for measuring the severity of anxiety symptoms. When it was first developed it was confirmed to have high internal validity and test/retest reliability. It is also able to discriminate between anxious populations (people with GAD, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc) and non-anxious populations (people with major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, etc).
The 21 items on the BAI are made up of questions that are answered on a 0-3 scale. The BAI scoring is as follows:
- Minimal anxiety (0 to 7)
- Mild anxiety (8 to 15)
- Moderate anxiety (16 to 25)
- Severe anxiety (30 to 63)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder Questionnaire-IV (GADQ-IV)
The Generalized Anxiety Disorder Questionnaire-IV (GADQ-IV), a revised self-report diagnostic measure of GAD based on the fourth edition of the DSM. This questionnaire consists of several yes/no questions and several scale-item questions. In one study, the GADQ-IV demonstrated test/retest reliability, convergent and discriminant validity. In short, it was able to successfully identify GAD.
Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HARS)
The Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HARS) is a 14-item self-report questionnaire in which patients respond using a 0-4 scale to assess the severity of a patient’s anxiety. Unlike some of the other scales, the HARS measures anxiety globally and is not meant exclusively for GAD. Research has also shown that the HARS is a reliable and valid measure for assessing global anxiety in an adolescent population, as well as adults.
Leibowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS)
This particular scale is, as the name suggests, used for measuring social anxiety or social phobia. The Leibowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS) has 24 items which are divided into two subscales. 13 questions are related to performance anxiety and the other 11 concerns social anxiety in situations. This questionnaire also has good reliability and validity. One study showed that it, in fact, had adequate test/retest reliability, internal consistency, and convergent and discriminant validity.
Overall Anxiety Severity and Impairment Scale (OASIS)
The Overall Anxiety Severity and Impairment Scale (OASIS) is useful for measuring symptoms across a broad range of anxiety disorders. The OASIS questionnaire has five questions that are answered on a 0-4 scale. It too has been shown to be both reliable and valid in a clinical setting.
Receiving an Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis
Diagnosing anxiety disorders requires more than just taking a single questionnaire on the computer at home. If you think that you or a loved one is suffering from an anxiety disorder, you are not alone. Anxiety disorder treatment is available. If you or a loved one is struggling with an anxiety disorder and are using substances to cope, contact The Recovery Village to learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment programs.
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