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Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

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Understanding Generalized Anxiety Disorder -- Diagnosis and Treatment

What Are the Treatments for Generalized Anxiety Disorder? continued...

Another anti-anxiety drug is Buspar. It has fewer side effects than the benzodiazepines and is not associated with dependence. Buspar, however, can have its own side effects and may not always be as effective when a person has taken benzodiazepines in the past.

Therapy for Anxiety

Psychotherapy, with or without medication, is often considered a fundamental aspect of treatment for generalized anxiety disorder.

Several specific forms of psychotherapy have been described in research studies as helpful for alleviating the symptoms of GAD. Two -- psychodynamic psychotherapy and supportive-expressive therapy -- focus on anxiety as an outgrowth of feelings about important relationships. Another form of psychotherapy, called cognitive-behavioral therapy, involves learning behavioral relaxation techniques as well as restructuring patterns of thinking that foster anxiety.

Biofeedback is another helpful tool. In a series of sessions with a therapist, you watch your own brain-wave patterns on an electroencephalograph and gradually learns to control the waves. This teaches you to achieve a more relaxed state at will. Practitioners estimate that after about a dozen sessions, you will be able to exert control over mental activity without the help of the therapist or monitoring instrument.

Lifestyle Modifications to Alleviate Anxiety

Daily exercise can be another helpful treatment for anxiety symptoms. If you find that exercise works for you, push yourself to go for brisk walks or undertake an active sport that you enjoy. Get your heart rate into the target range for your age for at least 30 minutes each time you exercise.

Since anxiety is often accompanied by shallow breathing, deep breathing exercises can also be helpful. Try the following form of yoga breathing:

  • Lie on your back in a comfortable place.
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose, using your diaphragm to suck air into your lungs while allowing your abdomen to expand. (Put your hand on your abdomen just below the navel to make sure the abdomen is being pushed up and out by the diaphragm.) After the abdomen is expanded, continue to inhale as deeply as possible.
  • When you breathe out, reverse the process: Contract the abdomen while exhaling slowly and completely.
  • Repeat several times.

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