Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Treatment That Works
Treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is available and effective. Generalized anxiety disorder treatment consists of medication, therapy and lifestyle changes. Often when GAD treatments are applied together, they have the best chance of success.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a mental illness characterized by unreasonable and persistent worries and anxiety unrelated to a particular place or experience. While 4% - 7% of people will experience generalized anxiety disorder symptoms at some point in their lives, the prognosis, with proper GAD treatment, is fair to excellent.
Medications for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Medications are commonly used in generalized anxiety disorder treatment, both in the short and long term. Medications for GAD include:1
- Antidepressants – the most common drug choice to treat GAD. Antidepressants modulate some of the chemicals in the brain like serotonin. Typically, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are used due to their low risk of side effects and efficacy rate. Common antidepressants used for GAD include paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft) and venlafaxine (Effexor). Antidepressants are taken for long-term treatment of GAD.
- Anti-anxiety - buspirone (BuSpar) is an anti-anxiety medication also used longer-term in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder.
- Benzodiazepines – these are sedatives (tranquilizers) typically used for short-term management of generalized anxiety disorder symptoms. These medications for GAD are designed to treat acute symptoms but may have the risk of dependence in the long term. Examples of common benzodiazepines include: lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax).
Other medications may also be prescribed to treat GAD. All medication treatments for generalized anxiety disorder carry the risk of side effects.
Therapy for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown very effective in the treatment of anxiety in placebo-controlled trials. In children with mild generalized anxiety disorder, CBT has been shown to be as effective as medications. CBT with medications for generalized anxiety disorder often works better than either treatment alone.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for GAD consists of at least 12 sessions, one session per week. This type of therapy for generalized anxiety disorder focuses on:2
- Identifying and understanding faulty thinking
- Modifying faulty thinking and behavior
CBT helps people with GAD to control their worry. Other types of therapy that may help in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder include:
- Assertiveness training
- Psychodynamic (talk) therapy
- Play therapy (for children)
- Art therapy
Lifestyle Changes Help Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Treatment
In addition to medication and therapy, lifestyle changes can also help treat generalized anxiety disorder. Some lifestyle changes that may prove helpful in GAD treatment include:
- Relaxation exercises
- Exercise and a healthy diet
To improve your chances of recovering from generalized anxiety disorder:
- Get educated – learn about GAD, your personal stressors and new ways to deal with them.
- Focus on a quality therapeutic relationship – the relationship between you and your therapist is important.
- Get experienced treatment providers – find a therapist and doctor familiar with treating generalized anxiety disorder.
- Decrease life stressors
- Increase your support network
Last Updated: 29 June 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD