Tests for Anxiety and Depression and Other Assesssments

Tests for Anxiety and Depression

To test for anxiety and depression, several assessment tools can be used. Here are some commonly employed methods:

  • Clinical interviewing

Clinical interviewing is the most commonly used assessment technique in counseling. Interviewing refers to the process by which a professional counselor uses clinical skills to obtain client information that will facilitate the course of counseling. Typically, clinical interviews are used to gather information concerning a client’s demographic characteristics, presenting problems, current life situation, family, educational status, occupational background, physical health, and mental health history. Many different types of interviews exist, and they can all be classified as structured, semistructured, or unstructured.

  • Structured interviews use a series of pre-established questions that the professional counselor presents in the same order during each interview. The structured interview tends to be detailed and exhaustive as it covers a broad area of topics. Because the questions are predetermined and asked in a sequential manner, structured interviews provide consistency across different clients, counselors, and time periods. However, they do not provide the flexibility to ask follow-up questions or explore client issues more in depth. 
  • Semi-structured interviews use pre-established questions and topic areas to be addressed; however, the professional counselor can customize the interview by modifying questions, altering the interview sequence, or adding follow-up questions. Although semistructured interviews allow for more flexibility, they are more prone to interviewer error and bias. Therefore, the results are considered less reliable than structured interviews.
  • Unstructured interviews do not use pre-established questions and tend to rely on the client’s lead to determine a focus for the interview. Typically, professional counselors rely on open-ended questioning and reflective skills when conducting an unstructured interview. This type of interview provides the most flexibility and adaptability, but the results are the least reliable and most subject to interviewer error.
  • Self-Report Questionnaires

Self-report questionnaires are standardized tools that individuals can complete on their own to assess their symptoms of anxiety and depression. These questionnaires typically consist of a series of statements or questions related to specific symptoms or experiences. The individual rates the intensity or frequency of their symptoms using a numerical scale, such as Likert scales. Common self-report questionnaires for anxiety include the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item scale (GAD-7) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). For depression, commonly used questionnaires include the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). These questionnaires provide a quantitative measure of symptom severity and can track changes over time.

  • Diagnostic Criteria

Anxiety disorders and depressive disorders have specific diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is a widely recognized manual used by mental health professionals. The DSM-5 provides a list of symptoms and criteria that need to be met for a formal diagnosis of an anxiety or depressive disorder. Mental health professionals evaluate the individual’s symptoms and compare them against the specific criteria to determine if they meet the criteria for a particular disorder. The DSM-5 also helps clinicians differentiate between various anxiety and depressive disorders based on specific symptom profiles.

  • Depressive Disorders: Depressive disorders encompass the following:
  • Major depressive disorder, characterized by one or more major depressive episodes without the presence of a manic, hypomanic, or mixed episode. This disorder is diagnosed more frequently in females compared to males.
  • Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymic disorder), characterized by a chronically depressed mood that persists for most days over a minimum period of two years (one year in children and adolescents). Many symptoms resemble those of a major depressive episode, but the individual does not experience the intense impairment typically seen during a two-week acute episode. Instead, the symptoms are milder and more persistent. This disorder is often diagnosed during early adulthood.
  • Anxiety Disorders: Anxiety disorders encompass various conditions characterized by significant levels of anxiety and avoidance that impact important areas of life.
  • Agoraphobia involves intense anxiety related to being in situations where escape may be difficult or embarrassing, often associated with the possibility of experiencing a panic attack. Agoraphobia can occur with or without a history of panic attacks. Panic disorder is characterized by recurrent panic attacks, with or without agoraphobia.
  • Specific phobia is an intense and persistent fear of a particular situation or object, such as flying, animals, insects, or enclosed spaces. Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) involves a strong and enduring fear of performance or social situations where one might be scrutinized or embarrassed, such as public speaking or being bullied.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder is marked by excessive anxiety that persists on most days for at least six months. It is accompanied by at least three of the following symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances. The anxiety symptoms cannot be attributed to another disorder.
  • Separation anxiety disorder manifests as excessive anxiety when separated from an attachment figure (e.g., mother). The anxiety must persist for at least four weeks and have an onset before the age of 18, significantly affecting academic or social functioning.
  • Psychological Assessments

Psychological assessments are comprehensive evaluations conducted by psychologists or other trained professionals. These assessments involve a combination of interviews, questionnaires, and psychological tests to gather detailed information about an individual’s mental health. In addition to assessing anxiety and depression symptoms, psychological assessments may also explore other factors such as personality traits, cognitive abilities, and interpersonal functioning. Psychological assessments may include measures such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), the Rorschach Inkblot Test, or the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS). These assessments provide a comprehensive understanding of the individual’s overall psychological functioning and can help inform diagnosis and treatment planning.