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 (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft). Studies show sertraline to
be a good medicine for children or adolescents with generalized anxiety
disorder. These medicines usually take several weeks to a few months to work
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs),
such as venlafaxine (Effexor). Studies show venlafaxine to be a good
medicine for people who have another problem along with generalized anxiety
disorder, such as panic disorder or depression. These medicines take several
weeks to work well.
- Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam
(Valium) or alprazolam (Xanax), which traditionally have been used to treat
generalized anxiety disorder. In some people who take benzodiazepines, the
body becomes too used to the medicine and the doctor might need to prescribe
more of the medicine for it to work. If you stop taking benzodiazepines all of
a sudden, you might feel more jittery or worried than usual (withdrawal
symptoms). Some people might have seizures from stopping the medicine too
quickly. Be sure to talk with your doctor before you stop taking your medicine.
People can become addicted to it. Be sure not to let anyone else take this
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), such as amitriptyline or
nortriptyline (Pamelor), which have also traditionally been used to treat generalized
- Buspirone, which is often used with other medicines
to treat generalized anxiety disorder. It may be used alone if the anxiety is
mild. It can take 2 to 3 weeks to start working. People who take buspirone will
not become addicted to the medicine.
- Trifluoperazine (Stelazine), an antipsychotic medicine that has been approved by the FDA to treat generalized anxiety disorder. Other antipsychotic medicines are also being studied. These medicines are not commonly used for generalized anxiety disorder because of their side effects, including mild to severe problems with body movements.
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), selective serotonin
reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake
inhibitors (SNRIs) can sometimes have side effects such as being restless and
not being able to sleep. These symptoms can be similar to generalized anxiety
disorder. But they usually go away after you take the medicine for a
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.