There are a variety of different types of medication that your GP can prescribe for you to help treat your GAD. Some medication is designed to be taken on a short-term basis, while you may have to take other medicines for longer periods of time. Depending on your symptoms, you may require medicine to help treat your physical symptoms, as well as your psychological ones.
If your anxiety is severely affecting you, you may be given medication on a short-term basis to help provide immediate relief from your symptoms. The types of short-term medication you may be prescribed are outlined below.
Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative which help to ease the symptoms of anxiety within 30-90 minutes of taking the medication.
Although benzodiazepines are very effective in treating the symptoms of anxiety, they cannot be used for long periods of time. This is because they have the potential to become addictive if they are used for longer than four weeks. Benzodiazepines also start to lose their effectiveness after this time.
For these reasons, you will usually only be prescribed benzodiazepines to help you cope during a particularly severe, or intense, attack of anxiety. Benzodiazepines can cause side effects including:
- loss of balance,
- memory loss,
- drowsiness, and light-headedness.
Due to the above side effects of benzodiazepines, this type of medication can affect your ability to drive or operate machinery. You should therefore avoid these activities when taking this form of medication.
Speak to your GP if, while you are taking benzodiazepines, you experience any of the side effects that are listed above. They may be able to adjust your dose of medication, or prescribe an alternative.
Antihistamines are usually prescribed to treat allergic reactions. However, some are also used to treat anxiety on a short-term basis. Antihistamines work by having a calming effect on the brain, helping you to feel less anxious.
As with benzodiazepines, this type of medicine is only effective when used for a short period of time. They are therefore only prescribed for several weeks at a time. Hydroxyzine is the most commonly prescribed antihistamine for treating anxiety. This antihistamine can make you feel drowsy so it is best not drive or operate machinery when taking the medication. Other side effects of hydroxyzine include:
- blurred vision,
- headache, and
- dry mouth.
Some people who have GAD require long-term treatment in order to help manage their anxiety, rather than treatment for the immediate relief of their symptoms. The types of long-term medication that you may be prescribed are outlined below.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs):
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a form of antidepressant which work by increasing the level of a chemical in your brain called serotonin.
As with any antidepressant, it will usually take several weeks before your SSRI medication starts to work. SSRIs are usually started at a low dose, and then the dose is gradually increased as your body adjusts to the medicine. Common side effects of SSRIs include:
- low sex drive,
- blurred vision,
- diarrhoea, or constipation,
- dry mouth,
- loss of appetite,
- feeling agitated, and
- insomnia (not being able to sleep).
When you start taking an SSRI, you should see your GP after two, four, six, and 12 weeks to check your progress, and to see if you are responding to the medicine. Not everyone responds well to antidepressant medicines, so it is important that your progress is carefully monitored.
If your GP feels it is necessary, you may require regular blood tests, or blood pressure checks, when taking antidepressant medication. If, after 12 weeks of taking the medication, you do not show any signs of improvement, your GP may try prescribing an alternative SSRI for you, to see if that has any effect.
When you and your GP decide that it is appropriate for you to stop taking your SSRI medication, you will gradually be weaned off the medication, by slowly reducing your dosage. However, you should never stop taking your medication unless your GP specifically advises you to.
If SSRIs do not help to ease your anxiety, you may have to be prescribed a different type of antidepressant known as venlafaxine.
Venlafaxine belongs to a group of medicines known as selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). This type of medicine works by increasing the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine in your brain, helping to restore the chemical imbalance that sometimes causes GAD.
You cannot be prescribed venlafaxine if you:
- have high blood pressure (hypertension) which is not being treated,
- have recently had a heart attack, or
- you are at risk of having cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heart beats).
If you have any of the above conditions, you may be at risk of developing complications if you take venlafaxine. Therefore, your blood pressure will be monitored on a regular basis if you are prescribed this medicine.
Common side effects of venlafaxine may include:
- dry mouth,
- insomnia, and
Other types of medication
Buspirone is a medicine which can help to ease the psychological symptoms of anxiety. It belongs to a group of medicines known as anxiolytics. You will normally have to take buspirone for four to nine weeks before you notice an improvement. It will be up to your GP how long you continue to take the medicine after this.
Buspirone works in a similar way to benzodiazepines, but unlike benzodiazepines, buspirone does not become addictive, which means that you will be able to take it for longer periods of time. However, it is still generally used as a relative short-term form of medication
Beta blockers are usually used to treat conditions such as angina (chest pain) and high blood pressure (hypertension).
However, they can also help ease some of the symptoms of anxiety. Beta blockers will not affect your psychological symptoms, such as irritability and restlessness. Instead they can help you with some of your physical symptoms, such as sweating and palpitations (when you can feel your heart beating faster than normal). Beta blockers work by blocking the chemicals that can cause these physical symptoms.
‘Taken from WWW.NHS.UK’