It often takes a long time for an anxiety disorder to be diagnosed. The person affected must first become aware of the issue and make the decision to seek professional help. However, merely becoming aware of their issues does not automatically make a person go to a therapist.
Mental illnesses are often associated with shame, leading those affected to put off seeking help as long as possible. Once they have found the courage to seek professional help, the first step is a detailed discussion with the specialist. The specialist will ask about when the anxiety occurs, its severity, and when they started experiencing it, amongst other things.
They will also find out if the anxiety appears suddenly or gradually and if it is associated with physical symptoms. Some of these symptoms may also suggest specific illnesses, such as circulatory, pulmonary or thyroid diseases. These must be ruled out as part of the diagnostic process. A GP will also need to conduct a thorough examination.
They will also investigate whether the anxiety is actually the main symptom or a side effect. This can the case with depression, for example. To help with this, the patient might be asked to keep an anxiety journal.
This involves noting when the anxiety occurs and how severe it is over a certain period of time. Symptoms that occur in combination with the anxiety should also be recorded. This makes it easier for the therapist to both issue a diagnosis and to then create a personal treatment plan.