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Burns Anxiety Checklist

author image Hazel Thornstein
Hazel Thornstein has been writing and editing since 2003. She writes copy for websites such as LIVESTRONG.COM and marketing materials. Thornstein is a psychotherapist, and her writing focuses on psychology and relationship issues. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications and creative writing from the University of California-Berkeley and a Master of Arts in psychology.
Burns Anxiety Checklist
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The Burns Anxiety Inventory (BAI) is an assessment tool used to measure anxiety. Developed by psychiatrist David Burns, the inventory, or checklist, can be self-administered or administered by a clinician. It can help people to monitor their own anxiety over time, and to become more aware of anxious symptoms. It also aids clinicians in diagnosing anxiety disorders.


Many psychological tools assess anxiety, such as The Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children and the GAD-7 Instrument of Spitzer et al for Measuring Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The Burns Anxiety Checklist is one of the most common and most accessible, and it can be self-administered. By giving a numeric rating to overall anxious symptoms, a person can evaluate his anxiety every day, to see how his anxiety fluctuates and to evaluate the progress of treatment.

The Inventory

The inventory is a checklist of thirty-three symptoms related to anxiety. They are broken down into three categories: anxious feelings, anxious thoughts, and physical symptoms. A person taking the assessment ranks each item on a scale from zero, "not at all," to three, "a lot." Anxious feelings items include "feeling that things around you are strange, unreal, or foggy" and "apprehension or a sense of impending doom." Thoughts include such items as "difficulty concentrating" and "fears of being alone, isolated, or abandoned." Physical symptoms lists sixteen items, including "pain, pressure, or tightness in the chest" and "restlessness or jumpiness."

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Burns claims that a person can complete and score the entire inventory in under two minutes. To evaluate the level of anxiety indicated on the checklist, each item is added up numerically. A score of zero to four indicates minimal or no anxiety, five to 10 means borderline anxiety, a score between 11 to 20 signifies mild anxiety, 21 to 30 is moderate anxiety, 31 to 50 means severe anxiety, and a score of 51 to 99 indicates extreme anxiety or panic.

Using the Inventory

Burns suggests taking the BAI once a week or more. He additionally advises noting if particularly anxious or particularly calm at the time of taking the inventory, to begin to chart the range of anxiety. Sharing the scores with one's therapist can aid in diagnosis and treatment. If in treatment - whether with medication, psychotherapy, or both - tracking anxiety over days, weeks, and months can give valuable information about the success of a course of treatment.


Depending on the score of a series of Burns Anxiety Inventories, treatment may be advisable. Psychotherapists of all modalities work with anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one popular choice for treating anxiety and panic, but psychodynamic methods are proven at least equally effective. Medication helps some people to manage anxiety and panic. A psychiatrist can assess which drug would best treat a particular set of symptoms and lifestyle.

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