Patients respond to 21 items rated on a scale from 0 to 3. Each item is descriptive of subjective, somatic (you feel it in your body), or panic-related symptoms of anxiety. If you take the test, you will answer questions based on how you felt in the last week. Answers about symptoms of anxiety are based on one of the following:
- Severe and disabling. You can't stand your feelings.
- Moderately bad. Very unpleasant but you can tolerate your feelings.
- Mild. Doesn't bother you too much.
- None. Doesn't bother you at all.
The maximum score you can get is a 63 and any score between a 26 and a 63 on the 21 questions is considered severe anxiety.
The test was named after its creator, Dr. Aaron Beck. You can find The Beck Anxiety Inventory at their website.
One of the benefits of this test is that it is easy to take and requires only a few minutes of your time. Studies have shown that women with anxiety tend to score a few points higher than men with anxiety. Other clinical testing and anxiety statistics seem to indicate that this test is quite good at pointing out the symptoms of panic attacks.
While this test is not generally available to the public, you can ask your doctor about it. More often than not it may be used by a psychiatrist to assess the degree of anxiety in a new patient. We do not utilize it in our headache center simply because this is not the focus of our treatment (headaches are!). However our psychiatrist and neuropsychologist make use of tests such as these. Once a diagnosis is made, this can direct treatment. Many times, mild to moderate anxiety responds to exercise and natural supplements. Severe, disabling anxiety however, generally requires some form of medication to get things under control. No matter what anyone tells you, severe anxiety is a neurobiological imbalance in the brain and deserves to be treated properly.
Anxiety can occur in adults, children and teens. Children and teens with moderate to severe anxiety grow up to be adults with the same issues. Treatment early can help prevent adult anxiety symptoms and allow for a full and rich life. Here is more information about anxiety attacks in children. I should note that this test is generally not utilized in children or teens, as the questions are aimed at adults.
Although severe anxiety needs professional treatment and medications, mild anxiety may improve from lifestyle changes and natural remedies for anxiety.
Can I Trust The Beck Anxiety Test?
This test has been utilized by thousands of providers since it was developed. It has a 92% reliability coefficient. On test-retest parameters it scores appropriately 75% of the time which is fairly high. It has been noted however, that women tend to score about 4 points higher than men on the Beck Anxiety Inventory.
Drawbacks Of The Test
According to a study done in the Netherlands in primary care, this test does not discriminate well between severe anxiety and severe depression. Part of the problem is that most severely anxious people also suffer from depression as the receptors in the brain for these conditions are subsets of each other (serotonin) in addition to norepinephrine.
Muntingh, A., et.al, Is the Beck Anxiety Inventory a Good Tool to Assess The Severity Of Anxiety? A Primary Care Study In The Netherlands Study Of Depression and Anxiety. BMC Family Practice 2011, 12:66