What is the Hamilton Anxiety rating scale?

Answer: The Hamilton Anxiety rating scale is a psychiatric test given to patients in order to assess the severity of their anxiety.

Hamilton anxiety rating scale drawing

Anxiety disorder is one of the most common psychiatric disorders today. In people with anxiety, they may experience a biological stress response with accompanying physiological changes. The stress response is characterized by an increase in activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, resulting in an increase in blood cortisol levels. The elevated cortisol may trigger a change in body physiology, resulting in elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, and shortness of breath. Those suffering from generalized anxiety disorder may experience this stress response upon exposure to everyday stimuli, whereas people with a specific phobia would may have their stress response triggered in response to particular objects or situations.

The Hamilton Anxiety rating scale, or (HAM-A) may be administered by a psychiatrist to assess the severity of a person's anxiousness. Originally developed in 1959, the Hamilton anxiety scale is still administered today. It is important to note that the Hamilton Anxiety scale is not used to make an initial diagnosis about anxiety disorder, but rather, used to assess how severe the anxiety is.

The Hamilton Anxiety scale is a self report questionnaire consisting of 14 questions. It takes less than 10 minutes to administer. It asks the patient to respond to different dimensions of anxiety disorder, including:

  1. Feelings of anxiety

  2. Sensation of tension

  3. Fears

  4. Insomnia

  5. Memory or concentration

  6. Depressed mood

  7. Muscle sensation, tingling or numbness

  8. Sensory changes

  9. Cardiovascular changes

  10. Respiratory changes

  11. Gastrointestinal distress

  12. Genitourinary changes

  13. Autonomic symptoms

  14. General behavior

Each question asks the severity of the symptom on a scale from 0 to 4. A 0 indicates there are no significant changes in the system, while a 4 means overwhelming changes that interfere with their ability to function. A total under 17 is regarded to be mild anxiety.