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Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder - Topic Overview

How is it treated?

Generalized anxiety disorder is treated with medicines and/or therapy.

The two kinds of therapy that are used to treat generalized anxiety disorder are called applied relaxation therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. In applied relaxation therapy, your therapist might ask you to imagine a calming situation to help you relax. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, your therapist will help you learn how to recognize and replace thoughts that make you feel stressed and worried.

Some of the medicines that are used to treat generalized anxiety disorder are:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine and sertraline, and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), such as duloxetine and venlafaxine. These are the most common medicine types to treat generalized anxiety disorder. These medicines usually take several weeks to a few months to work well.
  • Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam or diazepam.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), such as imipramine.
  • Buspirone, which is often used with other medicines to treat generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Trifluoperazine, an antipsychotic medicine.

Some medicines work better for some people than for others. Be sure to talk with your doctor about how the medicine is working for you. Sometimes you might need to try more than one type of medicine before you find one that works best for you.

Taking medicines for anxiety during pregnancy may increase the risk of birth defects. If you are pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor. You may need to keep taking the medicine if your anxiety is severe. But your doctor can help you weigh the risks of treatment against the risk of harm to your pregnancy.

Treatment for generalized anxiety disorder helps reduce the symptoms. Some people might feel less worried and stressed after a couple months of treatment. And some people might not feel better until after a year or more.

Unfortunately, many people don't seek treatment for anxiety disorders. You may not seek treatment because you think the symptoms are not bad enough or that you can work things out on your own. But getting treatment is important.

If you need help deciding whether to see your doctor, see some reasons why people don't get help and read about how to overcome them.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 13, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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