Psychologist Helping Soldier


  1. GAD-7 Self-Test
  2. What is An Anxiety Disorder?
  3. Types of Anxiety Disorders
  4. Causes & Risk Factors
  5. How To Reduce Anxiety
  6. Treatment for Anxiety
  7. Find Help for Anxiety

GAD-7 Self-Test & Anxiety Disorder Guide

Anxiety is felt by most people and can even be a healthy emotion, but anxiety disorders can cause a severe impact on life. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in the US affecting over 40 million people1. Dealing with anxiety disorders can be difficult because anxiety can creep into every decision made.

The first step to understanding anxiety is finding out whether the anxiety felt is normal or if it’s reaching unhealthy levels. Anxiety disorders can be described as mild to severe based on the symptoms felt and how often these symptoms interfere with daily life.

Try the self-assessment for anxiety below based on 7 official DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD-7).

This test should be used as an educational tool. It is not a replacement for a proper diagnosis of any anxiety disorder. If you are experiencing mental health issues, please contact a medical professional as soon as you can. 

What Is An Anxiety Disorder?

The flight or fight response is generally linked to anxiety disorders. It’s an automatic physiological response that our body goes into in stressful times5. The body’s original stress response would come in times of danger where we needed to be extra alert and aware.

Today, we are constantly bombarded with different stressful and anxiety-ridden situations, which makes our bodies fall into constant fight or flight mode. Our body feels like it’s constantly under attack, and this triggers an acute stress response. A chronic flight-or-fight response can cause stress to the immune system.

Anxiety can be felt when speaking in public or when dealing with difficult situations. After a certain point, it’s more than just normal anxiety and can reach the unhealthy levels of an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety can reach unhealthy levels when it starts:

  • Interfering with daily functions
  • Causing overreactions
  • Causing inability to control emotions

Types of Anxiety Disorders

All anxiety disorders have one thing in common, excessive worry or fear over situations that are not threatening. Anxiety disorders typically have physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. The different types of anxiety disorders each have their own set of symptoms and triggers.

Anxiety disorders, no matter what type, can begin to interfere with daily life. Anxiety can range from mild to severe and can begin early in life.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders affecting 6.8 million people in the United States8. GAD can cause feelings of an extreme and unrealistic amount of worry and tension, even if there is nothing happening to cause those feelings.

Constant worrying about what happened in the past or what’s going to happen in the future is common with the disorder whether it’s about health, family, work, or school. Feelings of restlessness or having difficulty concentrating can impact day-to-day functions.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorders are characterized by intense and sudden episodes of intense fear that are accompanied by physical symptoms. These attacks can be triggered by some external circumstances or even just a wandering thought. Panic attacks can feel like heart attacks because of the physical symptoms of this disorder.

Symptoms of a panic attack include sweating, heart palpitations, chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness. These panic attacks occur without warning and are not connected to a specific fear or stressor.


Phobias are more particular and cause intense fear of specific situations or circumstances. Many times the fear may not make any logical sense.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 12.5% of adults in the US will struggle with some form of phobia3. A phobia can include animals, bugs, heights, water, or other natural occurrences.


Agoraphobia is the fear and avoidance of being in a place or situation that may cause panic and the feeling of being trapped7. Intense fear can be of an actual or anticipated situation. This intense fear can lead to symptoms of a panic attack or be caused after experiencing multiple panic attacks.

Agoraphobia can cause trouble with:

  • Using public transportation
  • Being in open or closed off spaces
  • Being in a crowd
  • Being outside of the house

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, can cause intense fear of certain social situations10. The situations can become so frightening that they can cause anxiety just thinking about it. The underlying fears with social anxiety disorder can include the fear of being scrutinized, judged, or embarrassed in public.

Many people feel shy or self-conscious occasionally, yet it does not affect everyday functioning. Social anxiety disorder can significantly impact social life and even professional life.

Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Generally, children and teens can suffer from separation anxiety disorder. SAD is associated with excessive and extreme fear of separation from a loved one. The fear may be related to being lost from the loved one or something bad happening to the loved one.

Selective Mutism

Selective mutism is associated with lack of speech when anxious, but the ability to speak when comfortable. This condition can cause problems in school, work, and social situations. Selective mutism is most common amongst children.

Causes & Risk Factors

While the exact causes of anxiety are unknown, risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder. There can be many causes of anxiety including lifestyle elements that can be controlled, environmental factors, and genetic aspects that cannot be controlled.


One of the biggest contributions to anxiety is stress. Constantly being put in stressful situations can cause the development of chronic anxiety. One environmental stressor can cause multiple stressful situations that can develop into an anxiety disorder.

More and more younger people are dealing with high levels of stress and anxiety9. Ongoing stress can lead to:

  • Poor quality of life
  • Poor mental health well-being
  • Higher anxiety levels
  • Depression

Genetic Factors

A family history of anxiety disorders can increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Other mental health disorders in blood relatives can also increase the likelihood of developing a mental health disorder, including anxiety.

Personality Type

Personality types can also play a role in the development of an anxiety disorder. The tendency to experience negative thoughts, be critical, and have difficulty with criticism can increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders.

Perfectionists can also develop anxiety orders because of unrealistic expectations2. The tendency to think anything short of perfection is not good enough can lead to anxiety when failing to meet perfection. Even minor mistakes can cause high levels of anxiety.


Past trauma, like events experienced by veterans in the military, can cause anxiety. Witnessing or being the victim of a traumatic event can cause the development of an anxiety disorder. Some examples of traumatic events can include losing a loved one, injury, abuse, or major life changes.

Medication Side-Effects

Some medications can also lead to side effects or symptoms that feel like anxiety4. Speak to a doctor to understand if anxiety is stemming from medications taken or other causes.

Medications that can lead to feelings of anxiety can include:

  • ADHD medication such as Adderall and Focalin
  • Asthma medication
  • Medicine for Parkinson’s Disease
  • Thyroid medication
  • Medications that contain caffeine

How To Reduce Anxiety

To reduce anxiety, lifestyle changes and holistic methods can be started right away. These methods to reduce anxiety can be helpful but are not a cure for anxiety disorder. When these methods are used along with therapy or medication, they can help reduce anxiety symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes

Past trauma, like events experienced by veterans in the military, can cause anxiety. Witnessing or being the victim of a traumatic event can cause the development of an anxiety disorder. Some examples of traumatic events can include losing a loved one, injury, abuse, or major life changes.

  • Exercise – a regular exercise routine can increase self-esteem, increase self-confidence, create a sense of empowerment, and enhance social connections or relationships. Exercise can stimulate the body to produce the neurotransmitters serotonin and endorphins which can elevate mood.
  • Diet – nutrient-rich foods can help reduce anxiety and drinking lots of water. Try to minimize caffeine intake as this can cause symptoms of anxiety.
  • Sleep – can affect adrenal gland function and even lead to weight gain. Adequate amount of sleep, in length and quality, is essential to improving anxiety levels.
  • Avoid or Reduce Alcohol Intake – when suffering from a mental health disorder like anxiety, alcohol can be used to numb the pain leading to addiction and health problems. Giving up or reducing alcohol intake can reduce levels of anxiety.

Holistic Approaches

Holistic methods, when combined with standard treatments, can help reduce anxiety symptoms. Holistic approaches to anxiety can increase senses of peace, strength, hope, as well as physical and emotional health.

Holistic approaches to anxiety disorders can include:

  • Teas and SupplementsCertain herbal teas can help with relaxation and reduce anxiety. This can help establish a self-care and relaxation routine.
  • Aromatherapy – Aromatherapy is another way to signal to the mind that you need to relax. Lavender oils can help calm your mind and relax your senses. You can use a diffuser or add it to a warm bath to relax and reduce anxiety.
  • Acupuncture – traditional Chinese medicine method of inserting needles into pressure points on the body. The placement of the needles can stimulate certain energies in the body and can also improve symptoms of anxiety11.
  • Meditation – known to reduce stress levels and anxiety. Meditation helps control breathing and remain in the present moment. Meditation techniques can help control emotions rather than letting emotions control decisions.

Treatment for Anxiety

Anxiety disorder treatment plans are typically customized to help each individual recover from their anxiety disorder by addressing their specific symptoms and needs. Clinicians and the individual collaborate to come up with a plan that responds to their specific anxiety triggers and symptoms.


Pyschotherapy, otherwise known as talk therapy, is a common treatment for anxiety disorders. Specifically, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been proven as an effective method to treat anxiety disorders6. CBT is based on the idea that unhelpful thinking and behavior patterns can provoke psychological problems that can be changed by learning better ways to cope.


Medication can be used in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Depending on the individual’s needs medications can be used to treat chronic and acute symptoms associated with an anxiety disorder. Often, if medication is needed for treatment it will be used in conjunction with therapy.

Medications that can decrease symptoms of anxiety include:


Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) can be used to treat anxiety disorders and reduce symptoms of anxiety. TMS uses magnetic energy pulses to improve functions of the brain and the quality of mood. This procedure is non-invasive and medication-free. TMS has minimal to no side effects and is a safe way to treat anxiety disorders.

Anxiety is a complex disorder that can act between multiple neural pathways, therefore the TMS treatment for this disorder will target several different parts of the brain. Specifically, the parietal cortex that is associated with sensory information can be targeted to help with the triggers for anxiety.

Find Help for Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are a common mental health illness that can affect daily life. All anxiety disorders are associated with an excessive fear based on a situation or place that is not threatening. Each kind of anxiety disorder will express symptoms, emotions, and behaviors in different ways.

Although anxiety can be debilitating and affect daily activities, there are different treatment options to be able to find recovery. Based on the severity and type of anxiety, a customized treatment plan can be developed to address specific needs and triggers.

Solara Mental Health specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders through medication as needed, holistic methods, and therapy. If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, reach out to us today to ask any questions you may have and develop an understanding of our program.


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