Everyone feels anxious and stressed out at times. This is normal behavior that often goes hand-in-hand with a busy life. According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of American, or ADAA, when your anxiety becomes so overwhelming that your mental health interferes with your everyday life, you could have an anxiety disorder. Because anxiety is largely an emotional feeling, it can be difficult to measure. Questionnaires, observing your personal interactions and measuring physical symptoms that are associated with anxiety can be a starting point from which your doctor can measure your anxiety and get you started with treatment.
Screeings in the form of a questionnaire that you answer about your anxiousness, physical health and lifestyle choices involving drugs and alcohol is a standard method to measure and diagnose a variety of anxiety disorders, according to the ADAA. People who suffer from disorders of generalized anxiety, panic, post-traumatic stress and obsessive-compulsiveness are encouraged to speak to a mental health professional, who talk with their patients and ask them to answer written questions. The answers to these questions helps put them on an anxiety scale that, in part determines appropriate treatment. Standards are constantly under research and development; a recent example is the unveiling of the CUXOS, or Clinically Useful Anxiety Outcome Scale, in March 2010. The scale was developed by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital, and is touted to be easy to take, short and more closely aligned with anxiety, instead of related mental health conditions such as depression.
The British Journal of Pharmacology showed a connection between the measurement of anxiety and social interaction as far back as 1978. The study reported in that year's January issue that rats displayed certain behaviors more when they were in a familiar environment. However, when the test animals were in unfamiliar territories—i.e., in a simulated state of anxiety—they were observed to be less social. The study's outcome was not far off the mark. According to the ADAA, people who suffer from some forms of anxiety, like social anxiety and agoraphobia, often withdraw from society and cut themselves off from relationships as part of their illness. Observing a change in your social life and interactions can therefore be a way to measure a change in the level of your anxiety.
Measuring Physical Signs
Anxiety can also be measured through physical signs. Mental Health America explains that stress, depression and anxiety disorders can cause stress to your body as well as your mind. People who are anxious may be more likely to have high blood pressure and spikes in blood glucose readings. Your heart may beat faster in response to your anxiety, and your muscles may feel tight and tense, in reflection of your emotional tenseness. Undergoing a physical exam along with talking about your emotional symptoms may show you and your doctor that you are suffering from anxiety, especially if you do not have other underlying medical conditions that would explain a sudden change in your physical health.
Is This an Emergency?
- ScienceDaily: New Scale to Measure Anxiety Outcomes Developed
- British Journal of Pharmacology; Can Social Interaction Be Used to Measure Anxiety?; S.E. File and J.R. Hyde; January 1978
- Anxiety Disorders Association of America: Screening for Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Mental Health America: How Stress Hurts