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What Medications Are Available to Treat Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

Various forms of anti-anxiety medications can be taken for long-lasting benefits.

Treatment for generalised anxiety disorder usually involves medications, psychotherapy or a combination of both. There are no definitive conclusions as to which therapy is superior, but for patients suffering from more severe degrees of anxiety, they are not often receptive towards psychotherapy at the earlier stages of treatment. Those with other co-occurring conditions would typically benefit from medications as well. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) or serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) are usually used as first line treatment options with good response to treatment.⁶ Whilst some people might experience agitation and restlessness in the earlier weeks of treatment, these side effects would typically be self-limiting. Other types of medications used to treat anxiety include pregabalin and buspirone. Some doctors may opt to prescribe short courses of benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium) or alprazolam (Xanax), though they lead to the risk of dependence. Nonetheless, benzodiazepines are extremely useful in short term management of agitation and feelings of anxiety, and are sometimes used alongside SSRI or SNRI as those take longer to exhibit a clinical effect. Research now suggests that anti-anxiety medications should be taken for at least twelve months, rather than the previously suggested six months, for a longer lasting benefit.⁷

⁶Slee, A., Nazareth, I., Bondaronek, P., Liu, Y., Cheng, Z. and Freemantle, N., 2019. Pharmacological treatments for generalised anxiety disorder: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. The Lancet393(10173), pp.768-777.

⁷Gelenberg, A.J., Lydiard, R.B., Rudolph, R.L., Aguiar, L., Haskins, J.T. and Salinas, E., 2000. Efficacy of venlafaxine extended-release capsules in nondepressed outpatients with generalized anxiety disorder: a 6-month randomized controlled trial. Jama283(23), pp.3082-3088.

Information provided by:

Dr Keith Hariman headshot

Dr Keith Hariman

Specialist in Psychiatry, OT&P Healthcare

Please note that all medical articles featured on our website have been reviewed by qualified healthcare doctors. The articles are for general information only and are not medical opinions nor should the contents be used to replace the need for a personal consultation with a qualified medical professional on the reader's medical condition.

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