Generalized Anxiety Disorder
How Is GAD Treated?
If no physical illness is found, you may be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist, mental health professionals who are specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses like GAD. Treatment for GAD most often includes a combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
- Medication: Drugs are available to treat GAD and may be especially helpful for people whose anxiety is interfering with daily functioning. The drugs most often used to treat GAD in the short-term (since they can be addictive, are sedating, and can interfere with memory and attention) are from a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. These medications are sometimes also referred to as sedative-hypnotics or "minor tranquilizers" because they can remove intense feelings of acute anxiety. They work by decreasing the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as muscle tension and restlessness. Common benzodiazepines include Xanax, Librium, Valium, and Ativan. These drugs can cause added sedation effects when combined with many other medicines, and they are also dangerous if mixed with alcohol. Certain antidepressants, such as Paxil, Effexor, Prozac, Lexapro, Zoloft, and Cymbalta are also used to treat GAD for longer periods of time. These antidepressants may take a few weeks to start working but they're safer and more appropriate for long-term treatment of GAD.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: People suffering from anxiety disorders often participate in this type of therapy, in which you learn to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to anxious feelings. This type of therapy helps limit distorted thinking by looking at worries more realistically.
In addition, relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and biofeedback, may help control the muscle tension that often accompanies GAD.
Are There Side Effects of GAD Treatment?
Dependency on sedative-hypnotic medications (benzodiazepines) is a potential complication of treatment. Side effects of antidepressants vary by specific drug and the person taking them. Common side effects can include sleepiness, weight gain, and sexual problems.
What Is the Outlook for People With GAD?
Although many people with GAD cannot be cured and symptoms can return from time to time, most people gain substantial relief from their symptoms with proper treatment.
Can GAD Be Prevented?
Anxiety disorders like GAD cannot be prevented. However, there are some things that you can do to control or lessen symptoms, including:
- Stop or reduce your consumption of products that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter drugs or herbal remedies. Many contain chemicals that can increase anxiety symptoms.
- Exercise daily and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Seek counseling and support after a traumatic or disturbing experience.
- Practice stress management techniques like yoga or meditation.