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Most Commonly Prescribed Medications Used to Treat GAD

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: jen2008 • updated: 7/25/2010

GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) is often treated with a combination of therapy and medications. Several types of medications are commonly used to manage the effects of GAD. Those with the disorder have the option of trying antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and the newest medication, buspirone.

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    A variety of medications to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder are available for those who suffer from frequent feelings of intense anxiety and tension in their daily lives. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, is characterized by symptoms that include uncontrollable worrying about unrealistic scenarios and events, chronic stress that interferes with work, relationships, and everyday functioning, and physical issues such as nausea, fatigue, and body aches. Mental health professionals may prescribe one or more of the following medications for GAD.

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    Antidepressants (Tricyclics,SSRIs and SNRIs)

    MayoClinic.com, ADAA.org, and Helpguide.org provide online information on antidepressants and the ways in which these types of medications can aid in treating GAD. The common types of antidepressants that address GAD symptoms are tricyclics, SSRIs, and SNRIs.

    --Tricyclic antidepressants such as nortriptyline (Pamelor), amitriptyline (Elavil), and imipramine (Tofranil) are known to effectively treat anxiety-related symptoms. These drugs are linked to several bothersome side effects (low blood pressure, blurry vision, constipation and dry mouth).

    --SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) such as sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), paroxetine (Paxil), and fluoxetine (Prozac) increase serotonin levels in the brain, which leads to improved mood and decreased anxiety. Possible side effects of SSRIs include weight gain or loss, nausea, sleep disturbances, and sexual dysfunction.

    --SNRIs (serontonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) such as duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor) raise levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. SNRIs are often used to treat GAD, though they can cause headaches, nausea, stomach pains, or slightly elevated blood pressure in some patients. (1,2,3)

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    Benzodiazepines

    Benzodiazepines are most often prescribed to treat severe cases of GAD. ADAA.org, MayoClinic.org, and Helpguide.org offer information on this class of sedative drugs, which includes diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), and chlordiazepoxide (Librium). Benzodiazepines work quickly to relive acute anxiety attacks by decreasing bodily tension and promoting a more relaxed state of mind. These medications are not designed for long-term use due to their addictive properties. Side effects such as memory problems, coordination problems, and drowsiness may occur in some users. (1,2,3)

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    Buspirone

    The Helpguide.org and MayoClinic.com websites provide information on the use of buspirone (brand name: BuSpar) for the treatment of GAD. Buspirone does not have the sedating properties of benzodiazepines but does aid in lowering stress and anxiety levels. This medication can be used safely for long periods of time and is typically prescribed for people with mild to moderate GAD symptoms. The potential side effects of buspirone are lightheadedness, nervousness, nausea, and insomnia. (1,2)

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    The practice of using medications to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder is one that can benefit many people who suffer from the condition. Medications for GAD help to manage the neurological triggers for anxiety, thereby resulting in a decrease of physical signs of stress and an improved quality of life for those with the disorder.

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    References

    1) Helpguide.org--http://helpguide.org/mental/generalized_anxiety_disorder.htm

    2) MayoClinic.com--http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/generalized-anxiety-disorder/DS00502/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs

    3) ADAA.org--http://www.adaa.org/finding-help/treatment/medication