There are a number of different medication options available if you are diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Used alongside other treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, medications can be extremely effective in alleviating and controlling the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Your doctor or mental health care professional will be able to discuss all the options with you and help you to decide which may suit you best. All medications tend to have side-effects, so it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of each before making a decision.

Taking medications for Generalized Anxiety Disorder may be a short-term or long-term treatment option depending on different factors such as your medical history, tolerance to certain drugs and the severity of your symptoms. Sometimes there may be a period of trial and error before you find a medication which works for you and with some medications, there can also be a delay before they start to work.

Medications for Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be an effective treatment option.

Medications for Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be an effective treatment option.

The most common types of medications used to treat GAD are anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs. The most effective anti-depressants are known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) Examples of brand names include Lexapro, Cymbalta, Effexor and Paxil although your doctor may prescribe another brand. These work by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain by stopping them being reabsorbed too quickly. These chemicals have been identified as being responsible for regulating mood and anxiety levels.

The main types of anti-anxiety medications are called Benzodiazepines and these have an immediate sedative effect. These work to enhance the effect of a neurotransmitter called GABA – Gabba Amino Butyric Acid which has a calming effect on the brain. They reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety such as tense muscles and cause a rapid feeling of relaxation. They can be extremely helpful for short-term symptoms of severe anxiety but can’t be prescribed on a long-term basis as they can be addictive. As such, they aren’t a good choice for someone with alcohol or drug dependency issues. Examples of Benzodiazepines include Valium, Ativan, Xanax and Diazepam.

Side effects from medications can vary from person to person depending on the type and amount you are prescribed. Both anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications have side effects, although with anti-depressants, these usually improve over time. Common side effects from SSRI and SNRI anti-depressants include:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach problems
  • Sexual dysfunction

Side effects from Benzodiazepines can include:

  • Drowsiness and tiredness
  • Lack of co-ordination
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tremors
  • Vertigo
  • Low sex-drive

It’s important to know that Benzodiazepines also affect your ability to drive or operate machinery, so you should avoid these activities whilst taking them. They also affect older people more and are generally not recommended for people over the age of 60.

If antidepressants or benzodiazepines are not suitable for you, then you may be prescribed a medication called Pregabalin. This is an anti-convulsant, primarily used in the treatment of epilepsy however it has been shown to be effective in treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Again, Pregabalin has side effects and these can include:

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Increased appetite or weight gain
  • Vertigo
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth

Pregabalin is less likely to cause nausea and low sex drive than SSRI’s and SNRI’s however.

Taking medication is a big step, so if you decide this is the right decision for you, it’s important to make sure you have all the information you need from your doctor. If you have any questions or concerns, you can make a list before your appointment and don’t be afraid to ask a doctor to explain something if you haven’t fully understood it.

Questions you may want to ask could include:

  • What are the benefits of this medication and how will it help me?
  • How long will it take before I start feeling better?
  • What side effects can I expect and how should I manage them?
  • Do I need to come back for a check-up?
  • Who do I talk to outside of surgery hours if I have any questions about my medication?
  • How frequently do I take this medication and do I take it in the morning or evening?
  • Will this medication interfere with any other medications I am taking?
  • Do I need to avoid any types of food or drink whilst taking this medication?
  • What happens if I forget to take a dose?

Equipping yourself with all the facts will ensure that your medication is given the best possible chance to have a positive effect, plus it will help you to feel more in control of your treatment.

When you have decided with your doctor which medication you would like to try, it is then important to take it exactly as prescribed. It can be helpful to monitor how you are feeling using a diary or mood tracking website such as to keep a log of your anxiety symptoms and see if the medication is helping or not. You can also record any side effects you may be having and monitor how long these take to subside. Although some antidepressants take a few weeks to have an effect, there is a chance that the medication you’ve been prescribed might not work for you at all.  If you don’t feel any better after this time you can go back to your doctor to discuss other treatment options. Do not stop taking your medications for Generalized Anxiety Disorder suddenly however as this can cause serious unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. If your doctor decides a particular medication is unsuitable and decides to take you off it or swap you onto a different kind, this will be done with a gradual tapering of the dose so that you don’t experience sudden withdrawal.

Remember that medication can help, but it may not resolve all the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. To give yourself the best possible chance of coping with and recovering, it is important to bear in mind that most medications for Generalized Anxiety Disorder work best alongside some form of talking therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

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