Treatment Options for Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Individuals with generalized anxiety disorder have many treatment options. The conventional treatment for GAD is a combination of medication and therapy. Anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants should relieve your symptoms so that you can focus on exploring and resolving your fears and developing coping strategies in therapy.
The most commonly used therapy to treat GAD is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. CBT involves working with a therapist to identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to anxiety. It involves identifying and challenging negative thoughts, learning coping skills and relaxation techniques, and gradually exposing the person to their feared situations in a controlled way. Other therapies used to treat generalized anxiety disorder include:
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT): ACT focuses on helping people to accept their thoughts and feelings without judgment, and to take action towards their values and goals.
Mindfulness-based therapy: This involves learning mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing, to help a person focus their attention on the present moment and reduce anxiety.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT): IPT focuses on helping a person to improve their relationships and communication skills.
Exposure therapy: This therapy involves gradually exposing a person to their feared situations in a controlled way in order to help them overcome their fears.
Standard medication options for GAD include:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs work by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which can help to reduce anxiety. Examples of SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft).
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs work by increasing levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, which can help to reduce anxiety. Some common SNRIs include venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta).
Benzodiazepines: These medications work by calming the central nervous system, which can help to reduce anxiety. Examples of benzodiazepines include lorazepam (Ativan) and clonazepam (Klonopin).
Standard medication doesn’t always work the way it’s expected to, or you might experience intolerable side effects. At TMS & Brain Health, we offer a number of alternative treatment options for relieving anxiety:
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS): TMS is a non-invasive brain stimulation treatment that uses magnetic pulses to stimulate neural activity. It was approved by the FDA for the treatment of depression in 2008, and there is a growing body of research that suggests TMS is effective in treating anxiety as well. During TMS treatment, some people may experience a knocking sensation or sensitivity on their scalp, as well as a mild headache that typically goes away within a few hours. At TMS & Brain Health, we offer Express TMS, a specialized form of TMS that can be completed in just a few minutes per session.
Ketamine: Ketamine is a medication that is being increasingly used as a treatment for depression and anxiety. It is known for its unique ability to promote neuroplasticity and cause lasting changes in brain chemistry, which can lead to transformative change and long-term symptom relief. In 2019, the esketamine nasal spray (called Spravato) became FDA-approved. At TMS & Brain Health, we offer a range of ketamine treatment methods, including infusions, Spravato, intramuscular shots, and rapid-dissolve tablets.
Neurofeedback: Neurofeedback, or biofeedback, is a non-invasive process that uses real-time feedback to help a person learn to self-regulate their brain activity. It involves measuring brain waves using sensors placed on the scalp, and then providing feedback to the person through a visual or auditory display. The person is then able to learn to control their brain activity by making changes to their thoughts and behaviors in response to the feedback. A number of studies have shown that neurofeedback is a promising treatment option for generalized anxiety disorder.