A diagnosis of anxiety often relies heavily on a patient’s description of the symptoms he or she is experiencing.

Criteria for diagnosing anxiety disorders are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), the manual that mental health professionals use when diagnosing mental disorders.

Criteria for diagnosing generalized anxiety disorder, according to the DSM-IV, include:

  • Excessive anxiety and worry more days than not—for at least six months—about a number of events.
  • Difficulty controlling the worry.
  • Anxiety is associated with three of the following six symptoms:
    • restlessness
    • being easily fatigued
    • irritability
    • muscle tension
    • sleep disturbance
    • difficulty concentrating
    • The symptoms cause significant distress in social, occupational, or other important parts of life.
    • Anxiety is not caused by direct psychological effects of medications or medical conditions.

A review of medical history is often common to rule out any outside causes of your anxiety, including medications and other possible triggers.

A physical examination may be ordered to determine if anxiety is a symptom of some other condition, such as a vitamin B12 deficiency, hyperthyroidism, or another condition.