First-line treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is specific type of psychotherapy that is effective for GAD. CBT works by addressing your maladaptive thoughts that cause you to be anxious. CBT also addresses the avoidant behaviors that contribute to your anxiety. In addition to CBT, effective treatment for GAD includes relaxation and exposure work. Relaxation is needed to decrease the overall levels of anxiety. Examples of relaxation include meditative breathing, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation. Exposure work is needed to desensitize you to your fears…without facing your fears, your anxiety does not improve.
If you have a severe case of GAD, or if you do not respond to psychotherapy, then prescription medication may be considered. Medications that are effective for GAD include SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), SNRIs (serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors), benzodiazepines, Buspar, and Lyrica. Benzodiazepines are generally not prescribed for GAD long term, as GAD tends to have a chronic course, and benzodiazepines have a high addictive potential. Benzodiazepines are often combined with SSRIs or SNRIs, as SSRIs and SNRIs tend to be activating and can initially be anxiety-provoking. As the SSRI or SNRI becomes effective for GAD weeks later, then the benzodiazepine can be discontinued. Buspar and Lyrica are also prescribed for GAD- although they tend to be better tolerated than SSRIs and SNRIs, the effectiveness of Buspar and Lyrica for GAD may not be as robust.
There are alternative treatments for GAD, which include self-help interventions and natural supplements. Self-help interventions based on CBT have been shown to be effective for anxiety disorders, such as GAD. Also, natural supplements, which include herbal and nutritional supplements, have been shown to be safe and effective for anxiety disorder, such as GAD. The great thing about self-help interventions and natural supplements is that you do not need to visit with a doctor or therapist…you can start treatment immediately in a self-reliant and natural way.