A Psychology Test to Measure Anxiety: ISRA

January 1, 2020
The inventory of anxiety situations and responses (ISRA, from its translation in Spanish) is a psychology instrument that can provide extensive information when evaluating a patient's anxiety problem. Moreover, not only does ISRA make it easier to diagnose anxiety, it also offers specific techniques to treat it properly.

Anxiety, in its different forms, is one of the most important mental health issues. Having the tools to detect it is essential to correctly diagnose a patient. ISRA, the psychology test to measure anxiety, which we’ll talk about in this article, has some differential advantages with respect to other anxiety tests.

In fact, due to its structural characteristics, ISRA allows psychologists to get very detailed and complete information about a patient’s anxiety. This is incredibly useful at different stages of the psychotherapy process. Initially, it makes it easier to diagnose patients and to make a functional analysis of the problem. In later stages, it’s a great measure of progress and treatment effectiveness.

A man with anxiety leaning against the window.

ISRA, a psychology test to measure anxiety

Situations and responses

The psychology test to measure anxiety (ISRA) is a reliable tool to assess a patient’s anxiety levels. It’s main and distinctive characteristic is its format, since it focuses on anxiety situations and responses. In fact, there are 22 concrete situations that may cause anxiety and, consequently, there are several responses for each one.

Thus, the patient must imagine themselves in each and every one of the presented situations and think about how they would react to them. Then, they must indicate how often they respond in that way to the presented situation. For example:

  • Situation. Doing an exam in which there’s a lot at stake or being in an interview for a very important job.
  • Possible responses. “I think that people will notice the problems I have and the clumsiness of my actions” or “I can’t make any decisions because I overthink very often”.

The patient must be aware of how often they react like that during a test or at work (thinking that others will perceive their clumsiness or overthinking in general). Both the situations and the responses are very specific and simple, which makes it easier to do the test.

Anxiety factors put to the test

The psychology test to measure anxiety (ISRA) allows psychologists to identify problematic anxiety factors. It specifically measures four factors, each with a very concrete possible situation assigned to it. Let’s go over the factors that are evaluated and some examples of the corresponding situations:

  • Evaluation anxiety or fear of being judged. For example, public speaking.
  • Sexual and social-interaction situations. When another person is very close to the patient and both their bodies are slightly touching.
  • Anxiety in phobic situations. Traveling by plane or by boat.
  • Usual daily-life situations. Being late to an appointment.

This makes it easier to understand what type of anxiety disorder the patient has and which concrete situations trigger it. In addition, it allows medical professionals to explore the most common ways the patient responds to specific situations of anxiety. Thus, it helps plan a personalized intervention.

The three operational levels of anxiety manifestation

Finally, this anxiety test has another advantage that other tests don’t have, which is the possibility to evaluate the three anxiety components separately. These manifest at a cognitive (thoughts), physiological (physical symptoms), and motor (behaviors) level.

But the most curious and relevant aspect is that, often, these three levels aren’t associated whatsoever. A person might manifest high physiological anxiety and few anxiety behaviors. The ISRA provides response options to each of those levels so that the patient can indicate how often they manifest:

  • Cognitive. “I have negative thoughts about myself” or “I believe I’m clumsy”.
  • Physiological. “My hands are sweaty” or “I feel pain in my stomach”.
  • Motor. “I’m paralyzed” or “I stutter”.
A woman with anxiety, undergoing a psychology test to measure anxiety.

The advantages of ISRA, the psychology test to measure anxiety

ISRA is a very complete instrument that makes it possible to discover a patient’s reactions to certain situations. Also, it provides a general measurement of anxiety levels and it’s also a differential diagnostic about which of the four anxiety factors are the most problematic.

Furthermore, it detects the degree in which anxiety manifests in each of its levels and gives extensive information about a patient and their anxiety problems. By using this data, it becomes easier to know which techniques to apply in order to treat the problem.

Miguel Tobal, J., & Cano Vindel, A. (2002). ISRA Inventario de situaciones y respuestas de ansiedad. TEA ediciones.

Cano-Vindel, A., & Miguel-Tobal, J. J. (1999). Evaluación de la ansiedad desde un enfoque interactivo y multidimensional: el inventario de Situaciones y Respuestas de Ansiedad (ISRA). Psicología Contemporánea6(1), 14-21.