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The Role of Medication in Anxiety Treatment

The Role of Medication in Anxiety Treatment

Sitting here, my heart races and my mind fills with worry. I know the feeling of being lost in anxiety. It’s a heavy load. It can make you feel trapped in your fears or tired from not sleeping. Medication can sometimes bring a bit of light, offering a break from anxiety’s grip. Yet, the medication in anxiety treatment is both complicated and full of unknowns. It has its ups and downs.

Medicines for anxiety can help with the tough feelings and thoughts. These could be from problems like generalised anxiety, panic attacks, or fear of social situations. But they’re not a magic fix. They can cause their own problems and might not deal with the deep reasons behind your anxiety. It’s important to look at the different medicines and how they’re used. Then, combining them with other types of therapy is key for real change.

Key Takeaways

  • Medication in anxiety treatment might ease anxiety’s symptoms briefly, but it’s not the end-all. It can bring its own issues and risks.
  • Pairing medication with talking therapies is vital for a complete approach to anxiety care.
  • Knowing the kinds of anxiety medicines, how they work, and their pros and cons helps in making smart choices.
  • Considering medication in your anxiety plan means talking with a healthcare expert for advice.
  • It’s smart to keep an eye on how your body reacts to the medicine and make changes as needed.

What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) brings long-term worry you can’t control. It makes you fear daily things like work or health. But, GAD is treatable. By using therapies and medication, its effect can be managed.

It’s a common mental issue, affecting 5-6% of people. It shows as constant worry, often about minor issues, and affects your life’s quality. Doctors diagnose GAD through physical signs, symptoms questionnaires, and prior medical issues.

The exact cause of GAD is unclear but seems linked to genes, the environment, and how you think. Signs include tension, headaches, feeling tired, and issues focusing, adding to the emotional struggle.

Effective Treatments for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

For GAD, you can use talk therapy or drugs, often a mix is best. CBT stands out in therapy. It helps you manage anxiety by changing how you think and act.

Doctors also use a range of drugs for treatment, from antidepressants to buspirone and benzodiazepines. But be cautious with benzodiazepines which can be addicting.

It’s not just professional help that works. Simple lifestyle changes, like exercise, good sleep, and stress relief through activities such as meditation and yoga, also make a big difference.

To wrap up, GAD is tough, but you can manage it with various treatments and lifestyle adjustments. This can significantly better your life.

Psychological Therapies for GAD

If you’ve been diagnosed with GAD, talk therapy is the first option. It’s proven to help by looking into your thoughts and actions that cause anxiety.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is very useful for GAD. It helps you spot and change bad thought habits leading to anxiety. This can make you feel more in control and better overall.

Another helpful therapy is called applied relaxation. You learn ways to calm down, like deep breathing and muscle relaxation. CBT self-help courses can also teach you at your own speed.

Many people like therapy over medication for anxiety. It treats the main issues and arms you with skills for the long run. Studies also find therapy, even without drugs, works well for most with anxiety.

If GAD is overwhelming, reach out for help from a pro. They’ll create a plan tailor-made to fit your needs. This can help you beat anxiety and take charge of your life again.

Medication for GAD

If you’ve tried talking therapies with no success or you’d rather not, medication might help manage your GAD. The first-line treatment often includes SSRIs like sertraline, escitalopram, and paroxetine. These drugs boost serotonin levels in the brain. While generally well-tolerated, SSRIs can lead to side effects like trouble sleeping, headache, and nausea.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

If SSRIs don’t work, you might get an SNRI such as venlafaxine or duloxetine. These also raise serotonin levels but add in noradrenaline too. SNRIs are as effective as SSRIs for anxiety, but they can cause serotonin syndrome or increase suicidal thoughts and actions.

Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

Remember, antidepressants usually take 4 to 6 weeks to work for anxiety. Your doctor might suggest a short-term benzodiazepine to help during this waiting period.

There are also benzodiazepines, pregabalin, and atypical antipsychotics for anxiety. Benzodiazepines can have dizziness, drowsiness, and memory issues as side effects. Pregabalin works quickly with few side effects and low risk of abuse. Vortioxetine is effective for severe anxiety and tough GAD cases in the short term.

Working closely with your doctor is crucial. They can help find the best medication and manage any side effects.


If SSRIs and SNRIs aren’t the right fit for you, your doctor might suggest pregabalin. It’s a helpful alternative for anxiety disorders like GAD.

Pregabalin is usually taken in doses from 150mg to 600mg daily. These are divided into 2 or 3 smaller doses. For GAD, doses of 200 mg a day or over have proven to work well. Also, 450 mg daily can keep symptoms from coming back.

The most common side effects of pregabalin are feeling sleepy, tired, or dizzy. You might also have headaches, diarrhoea, or feel nauseous. Other side effects could be changing moods, swollen body parts, or trouble with vision. Some people might find it hard to get or keep an erection, put on weight, or have memory problems.

Although it’s rare, serious side effects can happen. These include wanting to harm yourself, very bad dizziness, or fainting. Hallucinations and issues with urination might also occur. Using pregabalin for a long time might make you dependent. This can lead to tough symptoms when you stop taking it.

If you have a severe allergy to pregabalin, it can lead to worrying symptoms. Watch out for your lips, mouth, throat, or tongue swelling. Breathing problems, skin changes, confusion, fainting, or a child going limp are signs to look for. When it comes to pregnancy, using good contraception with pregabalin is a safe choice. This lessens the rare risk of birth defects linked to the drug.

There isn’t a study directly comparing pregabalin to SSRIs for GAD yet. However, pregabalin stands out as a key treatment for the disorder. Research shows it’s effective in reducing symptoms in about half to 70% of people.


Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative used for intense anxiety for a short time. They act fast, calming anxiety within 30 to 90 minutes. But, using them more than four weeks can lead to addiction. So, they’re not good for long-term anxiety treatment.

They stand as among the most prescribed drugs worldwide. Their common effects are feeling sleepy, sedated, dizzy, or unsteady. At high amounts, they might cause confusion, memory loss, breathing problems, or sadness. Some people might experience more uncommon effects like feeling very restless, seeing things that aren’t there, or bad dreams.

After some weeks, you might need more of these drugs to help you sleep. But, needing more to reduce anxiety is less likely. When stopping, you might face issues like headache, can’t sleep, feeling nervous, shaky, tired, or not wanting to eat. Quitting high doses suddenly might cause restlessness, feeling very wary, confused, or having seizures.

Using benzodiazepines for over a few weeks, especially a lot, poses a risk of addiction. If you’ve had problems with other drugs, the danger is even higher. These medications might be considered if other options fail for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). But, because they can make you depend on them and might be addictive, constant use isn’t safe.

To sum up, benzodiazepines should only be used briefly for severe anxiety. Doctors should deeply think about the downsides with the benefits before using these drugs for anxiety disorders.

Side Effects and Precautions

Anxiety medications have side effects and precautions you should know about. You might feel sleepy, dizzy, or have a dry mouth. Issues with sex might also happen. Using benzodiazepines can bring risks like addiction. Mixing anxiety meds with alcohol or opioids is very dangerous. Always talk to your doctor before starting any anti-anxiety drugs.

SSRIs and SNRIs are top choices for treating general anxiety, says a recent article. It takes 2–6 weeks for these drugs to help with anxiety. TCAs, another type of antidepressant, help some people when SSRIs and SNRIs don’t work.

Benzos, like alprazolam, can be addictive. Doctors usually only give them for a short period. They boost GABA, making people calm and sleepy. But using them for a long time can cause big problems. When stopping, you must do it slowly to avoid severe issues.

Using benzos with other drugs, alcohol, or opiates can be very risky. Taking too many, especially barbiturates, is extremely dangerous. Watch out for dangerous drug interactions and try to use these meds safely.

side effects of anxiety medications

The Role of Medication in Anxiety Treatment

Medication is key in treating anxiety disorders for finding quick relief from severe symptoms. But, it’s not a lasting fix and has its downsides. Instead of solely relying on drugs, many find help through therapy, exercise, or self-help methods. These options often work as well or better, with fewer side effects.

As many as 8 million people in the UK face anxiety. The best path is to carefully consider your choices. This might mean using a mix of medication and talking therapies for the best anxiety management.

For treating anxiety, doctors often prescribe SSRIs like sertraline or escitalopram. They might also suggest SNRIs including venlafaxine. Pregabalin is another option, even though it’s mainly for epilepsy. In some cases, short-term benzodiazepines use is recommended for severe symptoms.

Still, it’s worth noting around half of those on modern antidepressants don’t fully get rid of their anxiety. Many on SSRIs face mild side effects, like nausea or headache, that usually fade. Yet, up to half may experience sexual side effects.

Many stop their medication early, with only half refilling their first prescription. Negative views on drugs, the fear of side effects, and stigma can all lower how well people stick to their treatment.

The use of medication in anxiety care has to be thought through carefully. It can help in the short term. However, it doesn’t fix the causes of anxiety on its own. A mix of medication and therapies like CBT is often the best route for lasting anxiety control.

Referral to a Specialist

If treatments for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) haven’t helped much, it might be time to talk to your GP about a mental health specialist. They could refer you to a team of experts in your local community. This team includes psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers.

Your local mental health team will reevaluate your situation thoroughly. Together, you’ll create a plan that’s just for you. This plan might involve new types of counselling or different medicines. Or it could be a mix of both to help you cope better.

  • Mental health services are free on the NHS.
  • GP referral is required for some mental health services.
  • Some services allow you to refer yourself, like for drug or alcohol help or talking therapies.
  • Your workplace can also help by directing you to specialists for work stress related to mental health.
  • If you’re a student, your school or college can refer you to get mental health assistance.

In most parts of England, patients can choose who provides their mental health care. But, there are exceptions where this choice may not be available. To book appointments, use the NHS e-Referral Service.

Appointment waiting times can differ. It’s important to talk about this with your GP or the team who is referring you. Working closely with your healthcare team, like GPs, psychologists, and psychiatrists, is key to effectively deal with anxiety.

referral to mental health specialist


Medication helps with anxiety disorders, but it’s not a cure-all. It brings side effects and safety worries. The number of people facing anxiety in the UK is quite high, about 32%. Globally, approximately 264 million people suffer from anxiety, which has risen by 15% since 2005.

So, we should think before using medication for anxiety. It’s often best to use them along with psychological treatments. This creates a plan that’s right for each person.

Learning about different medicines helps. People can then choose what’s best for them. This way, they can manage anxiety well.

But, not everyone responds to these treatments. Only 60-85% of patients see improvement. And not everyone who improves stays well. This is especially true for those with GAD or SAD.

Research for new anxiety medicines is not as much as for other mental health issues. So, it’s important to look at many solutions. This includes therapies and lifestyle changes. These can help handle anxiety better and feel well overall.


What is the role of medication in anxiety treatment?

Medication helps ease anxiety symptoms, especially in severe cases. But remember, drugs are not a permanent fix. They have side effects and risks. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons. For best results, some choose both medicines and therapy.

What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

GAD is when you worry a lot about many things, like work or family. It lasts a long time and can be hard to deal with. But, there are therapies and medicines that can help you manage.

What are the psychological therapies for GAD?

If you have GAD, trying therapy first is usual. This includes talking to a professional using methods like CBT. CBT helps you change how you think and act. It’s proven very effective for GAD.

What medications are used to treat GAD?

When therapy isn’t enough, medicines might be suggested. Doctors often start with SSRIs, like sertraline. If SSRIs don’t work, an SNRI, such as venlafaxine, could be tried.

What is pregabalin and how is it used for GAD?

If SSRIs and SNRIs don’t suit you, pregabalin might help. It’s not an antidepressant but can still lessen anxiety. It could be an option if you can’t take traditional anxiety meds.

What are benzodiazepines and how are they used for anxiety?

Benzos are sedatives used for short-term anxiety relief. They work fast but can lead to addiction if used too long. Doctors avoid using them for more than a month.

What are the side effects and precautions of anxiety medications?

All anxiety drugs, from antidepressants to benzos, have side effects. These can include sleepiness and trouble with sex. Safety is crucial too, like avoiding certain medications along with anxiety drugs.

When should I consider a referral to a mental health specialist?

If treatments aren’t fully helping, talk to your GP about seeing a specialist. They might suggest different therapies or medications, tailored just for you. This approach could improve your symptoms.

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