Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/28/2021
Anxiety is feeling dread and worry for no clear reason. It can be disruptive and even debilitating.
But unless you’ve talked with a mental healthcare professional, you may not be able to recognize the signs of anxiety, or whether you should reach out for help.
An anxiety test can help you make this determination. But what makes a good anxiety test and what should you do with your results? Read on for answers.
Widely-accepted anxiety tests like the GAD-7 are based on the official diagnostic criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Anxiety tests aim to measure the severity of anxiety symptoms
Anxiety tests can be completed quickly, in as few as 5 minutes
Anxiety tests may be self-administered
Anxiety tests do not replace clinical diagnosis by a professional
When we talk about anxiety as an emotion, we’re generally talking about the stress, worry and nervousness that arises when anticipating a future situation.
But when this emotion becomes excessive or disruptive to your life, the discussion about anxiety can change to one of a mental health disorder.
There are five main types of anxiety disorder: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social anxiety disorder.
The most common, generalized anxiety disorder involves chronic worry, anxiety and tension, without a cause to pinpoint.
Generalized anxiety disorder currently affects 6.8 million adults (3.15% of the U.S. population, and only 43% of those people are receiving treatment.
Anxiety disorders are treatable. Treatment generally includes a combination of lifestyle changes, therapy, and possibly medication.
Being diagnosed with a mental health condition such as an anxiety disorder involves the help of a healthcare or mental health professional.
They’ll ask about your symptoms, your lifestyle, and possibly do a medical examination to rule out physical causes of your troubles.
The questions a healthcare professional asks when trying to reach a diagnosis include what symptoms you have, how severe they are, how long they’ve lasted, how they affect your life, and whether you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder before.
In many cases, you’ll be given a questionnaire that may include the following questions:
In the last month, how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life?
In the last month, how often have you felt nervous and “stressed”?
In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?
Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge?
Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you not been able to stop or control worrying?
Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been worrying too much about different things?
Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you had trouble relaxing?
Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been so restless that it's hard to sit still?
Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you felt afraid as if something awful might happen?
Essentially, the healthcare professional is trying to determine if your symptoms meet the diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety tests can help in a few ways. Firstly, by giving you insight into the feelings and patterns you’re experiencing.
Sometimes, in the midst of life, it can be hard to track your emotions.
You may be aware that you’re feeling anxious and stressed, or that you’re having more headaches than usual, but an anxiety test forces you to slow down and think about what you’re feeling and how it might be affecting you.
Secondly, it can help you identify if follow-up with a healthcare professional is needed.
If a well-designed anxiety test tells you that you are, indeed, experiencing anxiety and it is disrupting your everyday life, chatting with a healthcare professional is a good first step towards getting help.
We’ve all taken meaningless quizzes and tests online — “what kind of pizza are you?” — but anxiety quizzes and tests can be helpful when they’re well-designed and used as a tool for self awareness and potentially getting mental health support.
There are two signs to look for when choosing a reliable anxiety test:
1. The questions are based on the diagnostic criteria for anxiety disorders, or the DSM V. The DSM is a diagnostic manual for mental health disorders, and if the questions on an online test are hoping to identify the signs and symptoms of anxiety disorder, this would be the tool to use.
For example, the DSM V says generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive worry or anxiety for “more days than not” over a period of at least six months.
On an anxiety test, this question may look like, “How often are you anxious?” or “How long have you been experiencing anxiety?”
Another example: The DSM V says generalized anxiety disorder must include at least three of the following symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance. On an anxiety test, this may appear as a list of symptoms for you to choose from.
2. Another sign that an anxiety test will be a useful tool is that it is written or reviewed by a medical or mental health professional.
Anyone can write a quiz and put it online, but having input from someone with a medical or mental health degree makes a big difference in its reliability. So scan the page to see who’s responsible for the quiz you’re about to take.
Anxiety tests can be useful tools in determining whether you could be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Use them as a starting point for getting help. Your results could indicate you need to take better care of yourself, or schedule a telepsychiatry evaluation and talk with a professional about your anxiety treatment options.