Measurement Tools for Anxiety

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects an estimated 2.1 percent to 3.1 percent of Americans every year. The condition is characterized by excessive and disruptive worrying and anxiety that affects many aspects of the sufferer's life. Because of its prevalence and distressful nature, increasingly accurate tools have become available for diagnosing GAD.

  1. Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI)

    • The Beck Anxiety Inventory not only screens for anxiety, but also has the added bonus of differentiating it from depression. Prior to this anxiety measurement tool, there were no tests that could reliably discriminate between the two. The advantages of the BAI lie in its relative shortness (21 questions) and its ease of use and scoring. This is a useful tool for measuring anxiety in situations where there is limited time or when there is a need to differentiate GAD from depression.

    Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI)

    • The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory is a self-measure of anxiety and is widely used as a means of diagnosing anxiety. Much like the BAI, this test is easy to administer and relatively short. The STAI is a useful tool for testing large groups of people, but tends to confuse anxiety with depression in a way that the BAI does not.

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder Severity Scale (GADSS)

    • The Generalized Anxiety Disorder Severity Scale is administered by a clinician and takes a very specific look at anxiety. This tool not only measures the severity of the anxiety, but also which categories (for example: money, the future, health or relationships) the anxiety tends to fall into. The GADSS is a very effective anxiety measurement tool and has been shown to have high reliability and validity. Because of its more in-depth nature, this test does take more time to administer.

    The Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ)

    • The Penn State Worry Questionnaire is most useful for determining the type of anxiety disorder one is faced with. This tool reliably discriminates among a variety of anxiety disorders and can detect GAD better than others of its type. The PSWQ measures the degree to which one worries, and can therefore assess the severity of anxiety.

    Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAM-A)

    • The Hamilton Anxiety Scale is an older tool for assessing anxiety, but it is still widely used. This tool uses clinician interviews to gauge the severity of GAD. Generally speaking, this measure of anxiety is more responsive to changes in anxiety levels, which makes it better suited as a means of documenting the results of a treatment. Occasionally, this test will be used as a diagnostic tool as well.

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