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The Benefits of Xanax for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

written by: Rene Wolf • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 9/27/2010

Xanax, when used as treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, is beneficial in relieving symptoms of the disorder such as insomnia, fatigue, tenson, anxiety and stress.

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    Generalized Anxiety Disorder Xanax

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a disorder that causes symptoms such as insomnia, headaches, extreme worry, and tension. Individuals with GAD do not typically experience the debilitating symptoms associated with the majority of other stress related disorders. Anxiety disorders and their symptoms are typically treated with a variety of medications and though the treatment depends on the individual, those with GAD have found relief with Xanax.

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    Benzodiazepines

    Anti-anxiety medications such as xanax are prescribed to calm and relax the anxiety experienced from generalized anxiety disorder. Xanax is also known by the generic name, Alprazolam. Xanax is in the family of benzodiazepines which work by enhancing the gamma-amino butyric acids (GABA) in the brain. GABA, the naturally calming chemical in the brain, can stop or slow down specific nerve signals to the brain. Benzodiazepines (Xanax), work by increasing the GABA ability to suppress the inhibitions of the nerves. The properties making up the benzodiazepines, attach themselves to the GABA chemicals, increasing the effects for inhibitions from the GABA. The tranquilizing effects when the GABA and the benzodiazepines combine are quick, typically within as little as a fifteen minute time period and the more GABA present, the greater the effect of the Xanax. As a result of the tranquilizer effect on the central nervous system, the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder are reduced. Xanax was first approved for use to treat insomnia, (a classic symptom of GAD) and/or anxiety disorders in 1981.

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    Benefits

    According to the National Institute of Mental Health, individuals with GAD who are prescribed benzodiazepines for treatment of general anxiety disorder respond well to the benefits of Xanax (benzodiazepine). Their symptoms, such as the irritability, trembling, fatigue, insomnia, and tension headaches which are often associated with generalized anxiety disorder are lessened. Though medications such as Xanax will not cure generalized anxiety disorder, it can help to keep the symptoms manageable. Benzodiazepines reduce the anxiety and other symptoms associated with GAD, with only drowsiness being the primary side effect. When the brain goes into overdrive from the anxiety presented, benzodiazepines with their tranquilizing effects when combined with GABA, can help to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.

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    Side Effects

    Drowsiness, fatigue, confusion, dry mouth and loss of coordination are the most common side effects associated with xanax. Individuals taking xanax for treatment of generalized anxiety disorder should use caution when driving due the effects some temporarily experience while taking xanax. Xanax when taken with other drugs and/or alcohol can intensify the side effects. When taking xanax, drinking alcohol should be avoided, due to the possibility of life threatening complications that could occur. When prescribed a benzodiazepine such as xanax, it is important that the doctor is aware of any other medications being prescribed.

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    Withdrawal

    For some individuals with generalized anxiety disorder who are prescribed Xanax, there is a possibility of tolerance development to the medication. There is also a possibility of dependence and/or abuse of xanax as well as severe reactions to withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms from extended use or misuse of xanax could include symptoms such as:

    • Nervousness
    • Insomnia
    • Diarrhea
    • Abdominal cramps
    • Vomiting
    • Convulsions
    • tremors

    Due to the risk of dependency on the medication, severe withdrawal symptoms and misuse of the medication, xanax is typically prescribed for short periods of time or intermittently. The symptoms of GAD are also usually short and mild in duration, however, the symptoms of withdrawal mimic the symptoms of GAD which may lead the individual to falsely assume they are suffering through a relapse of the generalized anxiety disorder. Though the symtoms of withdrawal and there are possibilities of a dependency, the benefits of Xanax in treating generalized anxiety disorder do outweigh the risks. To prevent withdrawal symptoms from being misinterpreted as GAD symptoms, individuals are usually taken off of xanax in a gradual process.

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    References

    National Institute of Mental Health. Treatment of Anxiety Disorders. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/treatment-of-anxiety-disorders.shtml

    Medicine-net, Anxiety Disorders http://www.medicinenet.com/anxiety/page3.htm

    Support 4 Hope, Treatments For Generalized Anxiety Disorder http://support4hope.com/gad/index.htm

    National Anxiety Fountain Stephen Cox MD, Asst Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, UKMC http://www.lexington-on-line.com/naf_xanax.html