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Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

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Medication for Anxiety Helps Older Adults

Study Shows Lexapro Has Modest Benefits for Patients With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Medication for Anxiety: Study Results continued...

It took about four weeks for the benefits of the medication to become apparent, he says.

"In older people the drugs may take longer to work," Lenze says. "Patients need to be aware of that. They shouldn't expect immediate benefits."

The study was funded by a variety of sources, such as the National Institutes of Health. Forest Laboratories Inc., which makes Lexapro, provided both the drug and placebo but had no role in the study. The results are published in TheJournal of the American Medical Association.

Medication for Anxiety: Second Opinion

"The data doesn't come as a surprise," says Philip Muskin, MD, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and a psychiatrist in New York City, who reviewed the study for WebMD.

"Those who stayed on the drug and took it got better, and more [of them] got better than the placebo group," he says. The difference, he agrees, was modest.

The study had some other important findings, he says. "No one had really bad side effects" from the drug, he says. Fatigue or sleepiness were the most common side effects.

GAD: The Condition

Generalized anxiety disorder "is a real illness," Muskin says. "And all real illness should be treated."

Those with GAD worry about the same kinds of things those without the condition worry about -- family, health, finances -- but they worry severely and for excessive amounts of time, Lenze says. "They have a full-time job worrying."

"It's the inability to put the worries out of your mind" that sets those with GAD apart, he says. "People with GAD have high levels of [the stress hormone] cortisol." Chronically high levels are hard on one's health, he says.

Besides medication, treatment can include cognitive behavior therapy, also known as "talk therapy," Lenze says. "Relaxation therapy can be effective at well."

Of GAD, Lenze says, "It's distressing and burdensome. [But] people can get help. It is a treatable problem."

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