What is the long term effectiveness of Lexapro for GAD?
Now that we know how Lexapro works, we can discuss its effectiveness, especially in treating GAD. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by high anxiety levels, restlessness, fatigue, and muscle tension. Serotonin imbalances in the brain have been shown to have strong correlations to the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Lexapro has been clinically proven to balance serotonin levels, and therefore improve all of these symptoms over a short term 8-week trial period. But what about the long term effectiveness of Lexapro?
A double-blind study published in 2005 that compared the effectiveness of Lexapro vs. Paxil specifically focused on the long-term effectiveness of the drug. In the study, 120 participants were randomly assigned to either the group taking Lexapro, or the group taking Paxil. Then, they filled out a survey scale called HAMA (Hamilton Anxiety Score), which asks questions on positive and negative life satisfaction and levels of anxiety. After the first surveys were completed, each group continued to take their assigned medication for 24 weeks, and at the end of the trial period all participants filled out another set of surveys.
The results from the above study are impressive, in that both groups experienced much less overall anxiety and higher life satisfaction. Those taking Lexapro were slightly happier overall, but also had fewer negative side effects when compared to the Paxil group. In fact, those taking Paxil were much more likely to report constipation (14.5% vs. 1.6%) and anorgasmia (26.2% vs. 5.6%). The authors of the article even recommended making Lexapro the drug of choice for GAD.
While there is clinical research that shows a long term increase in quality of life among GAD patients who continue taking Lexapro, there seems to be no strong scientific consensus on the topic. Those with GAD are strongly encouraged to talk with their doctors about the possible pros and cons of taking Lexapro, especially for long term treatment.