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What Are the Different Types of Medication for Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

By Amanda Barnhart
Updated May 17, 2024
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Many patients diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder are able to control symptoms through therapy, relaxation techniques, and behavior modification methods, but others require medication to help reduce their symptoms and control the illness. The most common types of medication for this condition include benzodiazepines, antidepressants, buspirone, and herbs and vitamins. Generalized anxiety disorder is a mental anxiety disorder that often begins at an early age and continues throughout adulthood.

Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam, clonazepam, lorazepam, and diazepam, can help relieve short-term anxiety symptoms. They are not typically prescribed for long-term symptom relief because they can have an addictive quality. These types of medication for generalized anxiety disorder act quickly, so they are typically reserved for sudden severe anxiety attacks. Common side effects of benzodiazepines include balance problems, coordination issues, and drowsiness, so they should not be taken if the patient needs to remain alert, such as when driving or performing potentially dangerous work.

Antidepressants can be prescribed for generalized anxiety disorder on an ongoing basis. These medications influence how neurotransmitters in the brain interact and can help reduce anxious symptoms. Antidepressant drugs typically take several weeks to build up in the patient's system before the full effects are felt, and doctors may need to adjust the patient's dosage several times or switch the patient to a different antidepressant drug to effectively control symptoms. At the correct dosage, side effects of antidepressants are usually mild and subside after several weeks of treatment, but some patients experience headaches, nausea, and insomnia when taking these drugs.

Buspirone is another form of medication for generalized anxiety disorder that may be used as a long-term treatment. This medication is not addictive, but it does take several weeks to work to its maximum efficiency. The drug usually does not eliminate all symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, but it does make feelings of nervousness and anxiety more manageable for many patients.

Certain herbs and vitamins are used as medication for generalized anxiety disorder because they help promote relaxation and decrease feelings of anxiety while minimizing other symptoms of the condition, such as insomnia. Valerian and kava are herbs used to help reduce anxiety and promote restful sleep. These herbs are typically prepared as teas, though they are available in capsule form as well. Folic acid and vitamin B promote the healthy formation of neurotransmitters, which help the brain function properly and can help reduce anxiety. Patients diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder should check with their doctors before taking herbs or vitamins to treat their conditions because some may not be safe to use with other medications.

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