Despite its more chronic course, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) responds better to treatment than does panic disorder. Psychotherapy helps many people, either by itself or in combination with medication. In addition, relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation, may relieve symptoms of GAD.

The antidepressant medications duloxetine (Cymbalta), escitalopram (Lexapro), Paxil, and Effexor are FDA approved for the treatment of GAD, but other serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs, tricyclics, benzodiazepines, and BuSpar also are commonly used to treat the disorder.

Many people with GAD experience depression and self-medicate with alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs, particularly benzodiazepines. As a result, someone with GAD who is being treated with a benzodiazepine should be given limited prescriptions of the drug (five to seven days). BuSpar, though sometimes less effective, may be a better option, as it does not cause dependence or withdrawal symptoms.

In terms of self-care, cutting back on caffeine may help ease the symptoms of GAD. One study found that the effects of caffeine, such as raising blood pressure, pulse rate, and brain activity, were more pronounced in people with anxiety. Moreover, people with GAD reported higher subjective levels of anxiety with greater caffeine intake.

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: Karen L. Swartz, M.D.

Published: 07 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 07 Oct 2014