What is an anxiety test?
Have you ever taken an anxiety test before? We might have all experienced anxiety, but you may not have thought about putting a specific number to the level of anxiety you’re experiencing. Having a clear understanding of your current level of anxiety can be useful for understanding yourself, comparing your results to others, giving a metric to help you work on yourself, and to see if you need any help.
An anxiety test is an interesting concept. How can anxiety be quantified and given a number or a description? Yet, this can be necessary for understanding objectively where a person is at, and for healing negative emotions. An anxiety test can show what the level of anxiety is, and where it comes from.
Depression and anxiety test
Current research shows that anxiety rarely happens on its own. Rather, anxiety often goes hand in hand with depression – though researchers have never been completely sure whether depression and anxiety are two dimensions of the same thing, or totally separate categories.
For many decades, scientific research has indicated that anxiety and depression strongly co-occur. Researchers often thought that the two were the same thing, or two sides of the same coin. Others thought they were on a spectrum, where one tends to exhibit either depressive symptoms or anxious symptoms. Studies have also shown that one can cause the other.
However, the most recent research seems to show that depression and anxiety are separate dimensions, but extremely closely correlated.
Depression has a “lethargy” function, making a person feel unable to do tasks. Scientists theorise that this is often to give the brain a chance to recover from stress. Conversely, anxiety has an “action” function, heightening adrenaline and cortisol to push the brain into completing tasks that alleviate the stress. Both are methods to help the body deal with stress. A depression and anxiety test interrogates these aspects to help see what avenue your stress is being channelled into
Anxiety test online
There are a number of anxiety tests online for measuring not just anxiety, but also depression and stress. These tests can be very useful – however, these tests are not doctors. They have never been to medical school. An online anxiety test is not a diagnosis; it’s a catalyst. If your results look like they could use some improvement, book yourself in for a chat with a specialist.
The Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS) is a three-pronged self-report scale developed at the University of New South Wales to assess stress, depression, and anxiety. The DASS has a 42-item format and a 21-item format, with seven items per dimension (seven for depression, seven for anxiety, etc.). The DASS 21 has the advantage of being faster to administer – hence, the DASS 21 is often used by doctors and mental health practitioners, while the DASS 42 is used more for research.
What is the DASS?
The DASS assessment of anxiety, stress and depression was created out of a need to move away from the standard set of defined emotional states, and instead create a scale that would allow for dynamic research: giving the things that we named depression, anxiety and stress room to be redefined and measured in different ways – in other words, prioritizing states over traits.
The DASS also pioneered the measuring of these three states as separate states – since the three have a significant amount of overlap, they were often studied together. The DASS clearly demarcates the differences between depression, anxiety and stress – letting us examine the unique aspects of each experience.
The Depression side of the DASS assesses dysphoria, hopelessness, devaluation of life, self-deprecation, lack of interest/involvement, anhedonia, and inertia.
The Anxiety side is made up of autonomic arousal, skeletal muscle effects, situational anxiety, and subjective experience of anxious effect. Anxiety is unique compared to the other two, because it involves something called “positive affect”. That is, higher heart rate, higher autonomic arousal. Your body does more, instead of less.
The Stress side specifically looks at chronic non-specific arousal; things like difficulty relaxing, nervous arousal, being easily upset or agitated, irritable/overreactive and impatient.
What is the difference between the DASS21 online and a paper test?
The DASS21 online test has the advantage of automated scoring (aren’t robots amazing?), but the paper test can be administered by a clinician, so it has the advantage of discussing your results with someone qualified. Both are valid results, but a clinician will be able to provide next steps and appropriate medical advice.
The DASS, as a scale, is made up of dimensions rather than categories. Dimensions measure amounts of a certain thing that everyone has to a certain degree (and might be interrelated), whereas a categorical measurement assesses traits that are assumed to be entirely separate constructs. Categories are black and white; dimensions are shades of grey.
The DASS, unlike other tests, takes a dimensional approach to anxiety, depression and stress, and research shows all the DASS dimensions to be moderately correlated with a typical rs of .5 to .7. The original researchers from UNSW maintain that this probably not due to conceptual overlap, but instead the correlation is likely from having some causes in common.
DASS 21 scoring
The DASS 21 online will be scored automatically. Scoring a certain number of items in the DASS scale will place a person in a particular zone for their symptoms – normal, mild, moderate, severe, and extremely severe. See exact cut offs below:
How does the DASS 21 scoring work?
A few challenges present themselves with the interpretation of DASS scores. The DASS is not built to see through bias; you could easily intentionally pick certain items to skew the results on purpose.
The scoring involves adding up the scores for each subscale, to get a certain number for depression, anxiety or stress. This scoring will show where the locus of emotional disturbance is, as well as severity.
What are the characteristics of high scorers on each DASS scale?
According to a 2007 study, the characteristics of high scorers on each DASS scale are as follows:
- dispirited, gloomy, blue
- convinced that life has no meaning or value
- pessimistic about the future
- unable to experience enjoyment or satisfaction
- unable to become interested or involved
- slow, lacking in initiative
- apprehensive, panicky
- trembly, shaky
- aware of dryness of the mouth, breathing difficulties, pounding of the heart, sweatiness of the palms
- worried about performance and possible loss of control
- over-aroused, tense
- unable to relax
- touchy, easily upset
- easily startled
- nervy, jumpy, fidgety
- intolerant of interruption or delay
Dass 21 reliability and validity
The DASS as a scale has been scientifically verified in a number of studies. The Cronbach’s alpha is pretty healthy with 0.91 for depression, 0.84 for anxiety, and stress comes in at 0.90.
The threshold for clinical application is .7, so all dimensions of the DASS are useful for medical practitioners.
DASS 21 online test
The DASS in research
The DASS-21 holds up well across a variety of studies, across demographics, within research, clinical and non-clinical contexts, and can be used for research with individuals or with groups. It works well for adults both young and old, as well as with kids. The DASS is helpful for research particularly because of the exploration of state over trait; it allows researchers to enquire about the nature and process of emotional disturbance, rather than test rigid categories. This lets researchers see whether the variation of, say, depressive symptoms has any correlation to sleep quality or some other aspect. That is, it allows the exploration of correlation and relationships.
dass score sheet
Driven provides the DASS score sheet in our DASS manual.
Note that this isn’t a replacement for the manual provided by the original developers, which can be found here.
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