Treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder

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Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by chronically persistent worry and therefore requires effective long-term treatment. This article reviews the benefits and risks associated with various pharmacologic and psychological therapies to assess their ability to achieve the elimination of GAD symptomatology and restoration of normal function. Psychotherapeutic approaches such as applied relaxation, cognitive therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy have all been shown to be effective when used as monotherapies and may be beneficial when used adjunctively. Current effective pharmacotherapies for patients with GAD include anxiolytic benzodiazepines, buspirone, and antidepressants including venlafaxine and paroxetine. Benzodiazepines have long been used to treat anxiety and are particularly appropriate in short-term treatment situations; however, their adverse side-effect profile and their inability to treat depression commonly comorbid with GAD renders them less than ideal in many situations. Buspirone has demonstrated anxiolytic benefits but, like benzodiazepines, shows negligible antidepressant action. Antidepressants like paroxetine and venlafaxine are not only effective antidepressants but also effective anxiolytics, thus implying their special ability to treat GAD and concurrent depression, even over the long-term.​

Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry 2003;5(suppl 2):24-29