Treatment for generalized anxiety disorder most often includes a combination of medication and selected forms of therapy. Some professionals recommend a combination of these two treatment options with alternative treatments like holistic health routes, such as meditation or exercise.

There are several ways to treat anxiety disorders. The type of treatment available will depend on many factors regarding the patient and their specific symptoms. Although treatment may not cure all individuals who have generalized anxiety disorder, and symptoms may return, many people still receive substantial relief through proper treatment.

Treatment for generalized anxiety disorder most often includes a combination of medication and selected forms of therapy. Some professionals recommend a combination of these two treatment options with alternative treatments like holistic health routes, such as meditation or exercise.

Medications Used for Treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder

A common treatment method for individuals with GAD is using medication to suppress anxiety. This technique is useful for people whose anxiety interferes with everyday functioning. Medication can make life easier for the patient. People can take medication alongside therapy to help resolve the underlying cause of the anxiety. The prescribed medications most often used in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder are short-term prescriptions to reduce the chance of addiction, overuse or tolerance levels changing. These medications may decrease the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as muscle tension, restlessness and impatience.


High-potency benzodiazepines relieve symptoms of anxiety quickly and have only a few side effects, Even though the side effects are limited, benzodiazepines aren’t always the best choice of medication as they can cause addiction and dependency and people often abuse them. Because individuals may quickly develop a tolerance to these medications, therapists may only prescribe benzodiazepines for short periods of time. Individuals with a history of drug or alcohol abuse are not good candidates for this method of treatment.


Buspirone is a newer, widely used anti-anxiety medication that is used for treating general anxiety disorder. Buspirone has a few side effects that are usually strongest when the patient begins to take the medication. Possible side effects include dizziness, headaches and nausea. Unlike benzodiazepines, buspirone must be taken consistently for at least two weeks to achieve an anti-anxiety effect.


While anxiety and depression are very different disorders, some medications that are approved for treating depression may also be effective for anxiety disorders. These selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are anti-depressant medications that are usually taken for several weeks before symptoms start to fade. Patients often get discouraged and stop taking these medications when they do not see relief in their symptoms within a few days. However, it is important to give the medication a chance to work.

Therapy Options for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Some individuals with GAD may not have a successful treatment with the use of medication due to the unpleasant side effects or their desire to avoid medication, which is not uncommon. Therapy is a good route for these individuals to seek treatment for their anxiety without medicating themselves. Therapy can help the patient limit their distorted thinking and irrational fears by looking at their worries realistically.


Psychotherapy comes in many forms and involves talking with a mental health professional. It may include individual therapy with the psychiatrist or psychologist, or it may include a group setting or family counseling. No matter the form of psychotherapy, they all involve talking through problems to search for the underlying cause and onset of the individual’s disorder.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a very prevalent form of psychotherapy. Individuals living with anxiety disorders may choose cognitive behavioral therapy, where they learn to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to anxious feelings. This technique inspires the patient to learn the connection their thoughts and feelings have with their behaviors.

Cognitive behavior therapy firstly focuses on changing the thinking processes that encourage the individual’s fears, then changing the way they react to the anxiety stimulating situations. This understanding can allow the individual to find and control the underlying source of their anxiety. This therapy generally lasts around twelve weeks and can be conducted in a group setting with people who have similar problems.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is specifically effective for individuals with social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress syndrome. These patients often get more out of treatment when they have people whom they feel can relate to their daily struggles as an understanding peer and support system.

Additional Treatment Techniques

Other behavioral techniques have been helpful by teaching the patient to relax. Deep breathing, biofeedback and meditation techniques work as a relaxation aid and may help control the muscle tension that often accompanies general anxiety disorder.

For many people, the best approach to GAD treatment is medication combined with psychotherapy. Some people may find that medication is not for them, though it is important to give the medication a chance even if the results are not immediate. Waiting for treatment to work can be challenging for people with anxiety when they already have a difficult time being patient.

Treating Generalized Anxiety and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders

Treating a co-occurring diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder and substance abuse may be more complicated than treating anxiety alone. The treating physician must have the ability to address both the patient’s psychiatric, anxiety-related symptoms as well as their uncontrollable desire to drink or use drugs. If the individual only seeks treatment for the anxiety, the substance abuse may continue, and the anxiety may return until the use of drugs or alcohol ceases.

Integrated treatment can help patients set and achieve goals and learn to use healthy coping and relaxation techniques. Individuals learn to recognize their negative behaviors and how to make positive direction changes, away from substance use and toward understanding the underlying trauma that caused their anxiety.

For individuals struggling with a substance use disorder and experience co-occurring disorders like anxiety, The Recovery Village can help. Individuals who have generalized anxiety disorder symptoms alongside an addiction can receive help from one of the facilities located throughout the country. Call The Recovery Village to speak with a representative and begin the treatment process today.

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Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Krisi Herron, LCDC
Krisi Herron is an Adjunct Psychology Professor, a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor and a freelance writer who contributes to several mental health blogs. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.