Pharmacological Treatments For Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Pharmacological Treatments For Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a mental illness. GAD is characterized by “chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry, and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it,” that interferes with daily activities. The symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder can manifest as psychological symptoms, behavioral symptoms, and/ or physical symptoms. Antianxiety medication can be incredibly effective in reducing one’s symptoms associated with a generalized anxiety disorder when taken exactly as prescribed. It is important to note that many clinical studies show that antianxiety medications work best in conjunction with regular, ongoing talk therapy.

Types of Medications for GAD

The treatment options for young people struggling with generalized anxiety disorder are extensive and for those that are professionally diagnosed by a qualified mental health professional, treatment may include the use of certain antianxiety medications. As is true with taking any type of medication there are associated risks. The specific risks will vary from person to person, as they will depend on several contributing factors (e.g., the individual’s health history, the presence of any additional mental health ailments, substance abuse issues, genetics, etc.). There are different types of antidepressant medications used to treat teens with GAD, each with respective risks, benefits, and appropriate uses, which include the following, provided by the Mayo Clinic

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): work by slowing the reabsorption of serotonin (the neurotransmitter known to help with mood regulation and anxiety) in one’s brain. Common examples of SSRIs that may be used to treat GAD include, but are not limited to:
    • Celexa (citalopram)
    • Lexapro (escitalopram)
    • Prozac (fluoxetine)
    • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): work by reducing the reabsorption of serotonin and norepinephrine in one’s brain. They can be prescribed to treat anxiety, depression, and some chronic pain conditions. Common examples of SNRIs that may be used to treat GAD include:
    • Cymbalta (duloxetine)
    • Effexor XR (venlafaxine)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): are prescribed less frequently as they are an older class of antidepressants that can cause more side effects than other options. Some examples of TCAs that may be used to treat GAD include:
    • Tofranil (imipramine)
    • Elavil (amitriptyline)
    • Pamelor (nortriptyline) 
  • Benzodiazepines: a type of sedative that alleviates muscle tension and can reduce some of the physical symptoms of anxiety. They are often prescribed to help manage symptoms associated with short-term anxiety. Common examples of benzodiazepines that may be used to treat GAD include:
    • Xanax (alprazolam)
    • Valium (diazepam)
    • Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
    • Ativan (lorazepam)

The most common type of medication prescribed for children and teenagers struggling with a generalized anxiety disorder is SSRIs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires antidepressant medications to clearly display a black box warning indicating the possibility of increased suicidal thoughts and behaviors when taken by some individuals under the age of 25. Integrating a combination of both psychotherapy and medication into one’s treatment plan for a generalized anxiety disorder often yields the most successful long-term results.

For Information and Support

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, in the long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.

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