Traditional Treatments for Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Traditional Treatments for Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety is one of this most common mental health disorders, so what are traditional treatments for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) exisit and how they might help you?

GAD affects up to 20% of adults yearly. It is characterised by constant, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things. It produces worry, fear, and a continuous feeling of being overwhelmed.

This type of worry can be difficult to control, excessive and often it is accompanied by many non-specific psychological and physical symptomsExcessive worry is the key feature of generalised anxiety disorder.

Diagnostic criteria for generalised anxiety disorder can include:

  • Excessive worry and anxiety for at least six months
  • Difficulty in managing the worrying

The anxiety is associated with three or more of the following symptoms for at least six months:

  • Being easily fatigued
  • Restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Mind going blank, irritability or difficulty in concentrating
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • The anxiety results in considerable distress or impairment in occupational and social areas.
  • You can not attribute the anxiety to any physical cause

Generalised Anxiety Treatment Options

There are two main treatment options for Generalised Anxiety Disorder: cognitive behavioural therapy and medications. There may be some benefit from a combination of the two treatments, with some trial and error to discover which options work best.

Anxiety Treatment – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a common type of talk therapy or psychotherapy. CBT is completed with a mental health counsellor (therapist or psychotherapist) and aims to help you to become aware of negative or inaccurate thinking.

CBT therapy is often broken down into two parts: cognition (what you think) and behaviour (what you do). Because how you behave is intrinsically linked to how you think, CBT aims to help you understand your thoughts and to think more positively about them. Changing how you feel and act and relate to other people.

CBT does not necessarily focus on finding out the causes of your problems; instead, it focuses on your state of mind in the present.

CBT can be a helpful tool, working alone or in combination with other therapies. CBT can help treat mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an eating disorder or depression. CBT can be a valuable and effective tool to help anyone learn how to manage stressful life situations better. It is not a tool exclusive to people dealing with a mental health condition.

Anxiety Treatment – Pharmacotherapy

Many types of medications can be used to treat generalised anxiety disorder.


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are two different categories of antidepressants. SSRIs increase serotonin levels in the brain, while SNRIs raise serotonin and norepinephrine levels. This class of drug includes escitalopram (Lexapro), duloxetine (Cymbalta),  paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva) and venlafaxine (Effexor XR). 


Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative medication. This means they help to slow down the body and brain’s functions. They are used when a short-term treatment is needed or an immediate reduction of symptoms is desired. They can be used to help with insomnia and anxiety. Examples of benzodiazepines are diazepam and clonazepam, which are long-acting agents. Because of their addictive nature, there are some circumstances in which these will not be subscribed, particularly if there is a history of drug and alcohol addiction.


Buspirone is a non-benzodiazepine that does not generate dependency. It is less sedating than benzodiazepines, and tolerance does not transpire at therapeutic doses. Buspirone has a therapeutic lag in the efficacy of two to three weeks, limiting its use.

Buspirone is prescribed to treat anxiety disorders and/or  symptoms of anxiety. Buspirone is in a category of medications called anxiolytics. It works by changing the quantities of certain natural substances in the brain.


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