Determining if one has an anxiety disorder is an imprecise process, to say the least. No clear-cut rule exists that says, “If somebody experiences these symptoms, then he or she suffers from an anxiety disorder.” In fact, it can be quite difficult even for a professional to discern whether or not a person suffers from an anxiety disorder. Perhaps sometime in the future a machine will be developed that can measure a person’s neurochemistry and quantify it in terms of numbers such that it can be precisely determined whether or not a person suffers from an anxiety disorder, but until that day, the imprecise method must be used.
When a person asks him or her self whether not he or she suffers from an anxiety disorder, there are several different points to consider. The first point that one might consider is how much distress does anxiety seem to cause him or her in daily life. One person might accept a much higher level of anxiety when engaging in social interactions and figure that there is no point in finding help, while another person who suffers from a much less intense anxiety level might seek help because he or she is significantly bothered by the anxiety. Or, two people might suffer from the exact same anxiety level, and one might choose to seek help, while the other might be happy with life as it exists. The point is that it is not wrong for any of the people in any scenario to seek help; people exist who love to help others and are more than willing to help any person who is bothered by his or her anxiety.
Conversely, take a look at the people who chose not to seek help. Is it wrong for one of them not to seek help? This is a very difficult question to answer. It really depends on the circumstances of the lives of these people. For example, one person might never leave the house because of a severe case of agoraphobia, and instead lives the life of a hermit inside his or her apartment. In this case, the person might have deceived him or her self into believing that he or she is happy with the state of his or her life, and in fact this person might be very miserable, which means it would be wrong for this person not to seek help (although it certainly would not be illegal). If one cannot perform one or more of the basic tasks required to live a successful in his or her society, then he or she would probably be wise to seek help. In American society, this means finding a significant other, holding down a job, maintaining a residence, and having a handful of relationships. If any of these tasks is difficult to do because of anxiety, then this person would be wise in seeking help for his or her condition.
Another way one can determine if he or she has an anxiety disorder that needs to be treated is by the intensity of symptoms experienced. Is it very difficult to take tests because of nausea, the brain blanking out, or sweating or shaking of the hands? Are simple tasks like signing one’s name in front of others or striking up conversation with a store clerk very difficult because of sweating, tightness in the neck and back, shaking in the palms, or a rapid heartbeat? If very significant symptoms typical of anxiety disorders exist in a certain situation, then this is another good indicator that one has an anxiety disorder that needs attention.
A final point to ponder when considering whether one suffers from an anxiety disorder is how long one can recall having a condition. Persons who suffer from a high level of biological anxiety (anxiety because of one’s genes) tend to say things like, “I have been anxious ever since I can remember.” Others might recall a significantly terrifying event that happened, and then being anxious forever after that, and only around situations which tend to be similar to the traumatic event. Biological anxiety, it seems, is more difficult to overcome than situational anxiety because it is so deeply ingrained in one’s neurochemistry, and while changing one’s neurochemistry is difficult, it is not impossible.
In sum, even though there are many anxiety diagnostic tests, not every test will capture the complete picture of a person’s anxiety. Tests, like the people who created them, are good at helping a professional to understand a person’s anxiety, but they are not perfect. The guidelines presented in this article are intended to help people think through their anxiety in a general manner and to help them determine whether or not they suffer from an anxiety condition they feel is worth treating.