2 Questions That Help Diagnose An Anxiety Disorder

The ultra-brief test can help identify an anxiety problem quickly.

The ultra-brief test can help identify an anxiety problem quickly.

Almost 20 percent of people who visit their doctor have an anxiety disorder, research finds.

And just two questions are often enough to suggest there is a problem that needs to be addressed:

  1. In the past two weeks, have you felt nervous, anxious or on edge?
  2. In the past two weeks, have you been unable to stop or control worrying?

There are four possible responses for these two questions: Not at all, several days, more than half the days, nearly every day.

The more frequently someone is worrying  and unable to stop or control it (i.e. every day or half the days), the more chance there is a problem.

Dr Kurt Kroenke, the study’s first author, said:

“Anxiety often manifests as a physical symptom like pain, fatigue, or inability to sleep, so it is not surprising that one out of five patients who come to a doctor’s office with a physical complaint have anxiety.”

The study was carried out on 965 people in 15 primary care clinics.

Dr Kroenke said:

“Doctors like to quantify things.

We can objectively measure blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol, but symptoms of anxiety can be missed in a busy primary care practice.

The seven-question GAD-7 and remarkably even the two-question “ultra brief” version gives the physician a tool to quantify the patient’s symptoms — sort of a lab test for anxiety.”

Clearly these two questions on their own are not enough for a diagnosis, but they can help identify when there is a need for further help.


The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (Kroenke et al., 2007).

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Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.