If you are suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, there are a number of different treatments that can help. It’s important to remember that GAD is a highly treatable condition and the chances are good that you will find something that improves your anxiety symptoms. You can discuss the different options with your doctor after you have been diagnosed, so that you can make an informed decision about which one is right for you. Generalized Anxiety Disorder treatments can involve medication, therapy and self-help options and it’s vital to look at the pros and cons of each.
Generally, a doctor will advise that you try a psychological therapy before embarking on medication. It’s been shown that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be extremely effective in the treatment of GAD and has a very high success rate. This therapy works on understanding how your thoughts, problems, feelings and behavior all affect each other. It can help you identify patterns of negative or anxious thoughts and give you the skills to challenge them or replace them with more realistic thinking instead. The number of sessions you will need is assessed on an individual basis and you will usually meet with a therapist for a one-hour session every week.
Another successful therapy for GAD is Applied Relaxation. This is a technique which teaches you to relax your muscles quickly in situations or circumstances which cause you anxiety. The therapist will support you to practice these relaxation skills and apply them in response to a trigger such as the word ‘relax’. Again, you will usually meet with a therapist weekly.
There are several different types of medication available for the treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and it’s important to discuss all your options thoroughly with your doctor. The most common to be offered in the first instance is a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) which works by increasing the levels of a chemical called serotonin in your brain.
As with all anti-depressants, there are side-effects to consider plus the fact that they usually take several weeks to have an effect. Some of the side effects could include the following:
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling sick
- Dry mouth
- Problems sleeping
- Low sex drive
- Stomach upsets
- Feeling agitated
Your doctor should monitor you closely to assess whether the SSRI’s are working and how well you are tolerating any side effects. The worst of the side-effects should pass after a few weeks, but if the tablets are not helping, or if the side effects are too unpleasant you can be prescribed a different medication. You should never stop taking your tablets suddenly as this could cause severe withdrawal effects.
Examples of SSRI’s are escitalopram (Lexapro) and sertraline (Zoloft).
If SSRI’s do not help with your anxiety there is another anti-depressant option known as a serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) which works on elevating the chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline in your brain. Again, these take several weeks to work and have similar side-effects to an SSRI. The difference is that SNRI’s can also increase your blood pressure so your doctor will monitor you closely during treatment.
Examples of an SNRI medication include venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta).
Other medications you could be offered include Pregabalin; this is an anticonvulsant used to treat conditions such as epilepsy, however it has proved to be extremely effective in treating anxiety. Although Pregabalin is less likely to cause nausea or low sex drive, it has many of the same side effects as an SSRI or SNRI.
A different type of medication called a benzodiazepine can also be used in the short-term treatment of severe anxiety such as panic attacks. They are useful as they can reduce the symptoms of anxiety within 30-90 minutes but are addictive if taken for longer than four weeks. They also start to lose their effect after this time. Due to their habit-forming nature, it’s not a good idea to take them if you’ve had problems with drug or alcohol abuse. The side effects can include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low sex drive
Depending on the dose you have been given, the drowsiness can be severe, so you will not be able to drive or operate machinery while you are taking this medication.
Examples of benzodiazepines include diazepam (Valium) alprazolam (Niravam, Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan).
Beta-blockers such as propranolol can also be used for mild cases of anxiety, but these must be taken every day whether you are experiencing anxiety or not.
Sometimes your doctor may decide that a combination of medications and talking therapy is the best way to treat your GAD.
Self Help Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treatments
There’s a lot you can do to help yourself too if you suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Self-help can be just as important as medication and therapy and there’s lots of things you can try.
Modifications to your lifestyle, such as eating healthily and taking regular exercise can make a huge difference to your anxiety levels. Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day and include some activity that raises your heart rate. Taking yoga or meditation classes can help too, as they teach you to relax, control your breathing and calm your thoughts. As well as the benefits for anxiety, yoga and meditation have also been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate.
Complementary and alternative therapies can also be used alongside therapy and medication for GAD. The evidence for the benefits of acupuncture (inserting fine needles at strategic points to manipulate the energy flow in the body) are growing, although you should check that your therapist is fully trained and accredited.
You could also try approaches such as homeopathic or naturopathic medicine, art, music or dance therapy or try dietary supplements. Again, it’s important to check a practitioner’s qualifications and accreditation, conduct thorough research into these areas and make sure that you consult with your doctor before taking supplements as they could interfere with your prescribed medication.
Ultimately, it make take a period of trial and error before you work out which methods work for you, but the vast majority of people with GAD can be helped and treated.
- What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
- Causes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treatments
- Medications for Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder Statistics