Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Generalized anxiety disorder treatment

It can be difficult having GAD. The good news is that there are many ways you can treat your anxiety12, both through holistic measures and medication. And treatment is very important: GAD can consume your life and can stick around for quite some time. It can impact your relationships and your general happiness.

Finding the right treatment for you is essential. Especially with psychological disorders, like GAD, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. You need to find what works for you.

Because it’s a psychological disorder, you might be afraid there isn’t a clear path of treating the disorder. However, there are multiple-medically backed methods for treating GAD. The most effective for most people is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for GAD

Most people who are afflicted with GAD also suffer from major depression. This is one of the reasons why CBT can work so well; it simultaneously treats depression while working to overcome GAD. Together, CBT aims to get at the root of your anxiety (and your depression, if present).

CBT works to curb anxiety by trying to change the way your thought patterns work. It’s a three-step process:

  1. Creating a framework for evaluating your anxiety. This allows you to realize which of your anxieties out-of-proportion or unnecessary, which gives you the ability to challenge them.
  2. Consider your triggers: What are they? Are they realistic? Are your fears likely to come true? Assess them and understand which ones are worth your time.
  3. Confront your insecurities head-on. Dig deep and understand what you are actually worried about and if it’s actually worth worrying about this.

A good example of this is the common GAD pattern of catastrophizing. This is when you immediately assume the absolute worst-case scenario (even if that’s incredibly unrealistic) will be your reality. It’s a common response to anything unsettling happening.

Working with a therapist, you can identify these thought patterns and work to curb or reconfigure them completely. In short, the goal is to make you more aware of your thought processes.

Once you’ve become more familiar with your thought patterns and tendencies, the next step is to actively reduce your anxiety by behavioral changes. You confront your fear so that you can overcome it. For instance, if you are constantly calling your partner to check up on them and make sure they’re okay, you try to reduce the number of times you reach out to them. That way, you don’t feed the fear and anxiety, and you learn to cope from there.

Supplementary holistic treatments for GAD

While you should consult a medical professional and engage in CBT if you have GAD, there are supplemental measures that can help.

The goal is to reduce anxiety through other natural measures. Some find that relaxation techniques, like meditation and yoga, can be effective as supplemental to the work they do with their therapist. Your therapist may also prescribe certain breathing techniques and mental games to reduce stress.

GAD medication

Your healthcare provider may discuss the following medications to treat your GAD:

May be prescribed

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Medication, GAD, and finding the right treatment

Part of whether you will treat your GAD with medication boils down to your needs and preferences. CBT can be very effective with the right therapist and the right treatment. For some, CBT is the best treatment option. However, there can be large time gaps between CBT sessions and it often tends to take many sessions to see improvement in signs and symptoms.

For some people with GAD, it’s necessary to begin treatment with short-term medication to alleviate some of the more extreme symptoms so that CBT can be more effective. For others, medication is a more long-term solution to managing underlying chemical imbalances that contribute to GAD.

To reduce the risk of side effects, your provider will start you on a low dose of medication. They will gradually increase your dose in order to give you time to adjust. It may take a few weeks to several months to reach a therapeutic dose (the amount of medication that works for improving your signs and symptoms).

Antidepressants are one of the most commonly prescribed medications for GAD. Antidepressants can serve as a conduit for the therapy and help people to heal faster and more efficiently. Some medications commonly prescribed for GAD include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): One of the most common types of antidepressants are SSRIs. Because people with GAD often experience major depression as well, SSRIs can work to treat both conditions.
  • Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): Similar to SSRIs, these medications are also helpful in treating depression and anxiety, as well as chronic pain. Duloxetine and venlafaxine are two commonly prescribed SNRIs.
  • Buspirone: An anti-anxiety drug called buspirone can be used to treat GAD. It’s often implemented when SSRIs and other antidepressants don’t achieve the desired effect. Buspirone is known to have side effects of sleep problems and drowsiness.
  • Hydroxyzine: Hydroxyzine, an antihistamine, may also work to curb GAD, especially in the case of insomnia associated with GAD. However, like some other medications, there is not a wealth of research on its effectiveness.
  • Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are a family of sedatives that have a fast effect. They can work to temporarily relieve anxiety. However, there is a risk of dependency, even within the short-term.
  • Pregabalin: While primarily used to deal with nerve-pain, Pregabalin can also be effective at treating anxiety. However, it is not approved by the FDA for treatment of GAD.

Everyone is different, and everyone responds to medications differently. Because of this, it’s best to consult with your healthcare provider. They may recommend that you try several different medications to determine which is the most effective.

Treatment for anxiety can be long and challenging. It is worth it to stick with it, however. Many people see tremendous improvement when they commit to improving their signs and symptoms with treatment.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.