Updated 04 February 2016

Diagnosing anxiety disorders

A diagnosis of anxiety depends a lot on your description of the symptoms you are experiencing.


A medical professional (usually a GP) makes the anxiety disorder diagnosis. A psychiatrist should do a thorough assessment, including taking an in-depth history of the patient and his or her family.

The diagnosis is made according to the criteria in the DSM-V (American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The recently published DSM-V has replaced the DSM-IV.

For example, to make a diagnosis of panic disorder, clinicians will need to confirm that panic attacks are followed by at least one month of continual worry about having another attack, as well as its implications or consequences, and that the attacks have led to significant behaviour changes (e.g. agoraphobia).

Read more: 

Types of anxiety disorders  

Symptoms of anxiety disorders  

Preventing anxiety disorders

Reviewed by Dr Stefanie van Vuuren,  MB ChB (Stell), M Med (Psig) (Stell), FC (Psych)SA, Psychiatrist in private practice, Cape Town.  February 2015.

Previously reviewed by Dr Soraya Seedat, psychiatrist and co-director, MRC Unit on Anxiety and Stress Disorders.


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Depression expert

Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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