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Treatment for general anxiety disorder (GAD) falls into two categories:

Since psychotherapy is more effective than medication, it is usually the first treatment that is tried. Researchers have found that cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in treating GAD. Medications have shown to work better than placebo. Most patients benefit from a combination of therapies. More research, though, needs to be done for the other forms of therapy.

Although medical care can help most people with GAD, treatment success varies from person to person. Some experience an improvement after only a few months of treatment, while with others it may take a year or more. Treatment can be complicated by having another condition at the same time, such as substance abuse, depression, or other anxiety disorders.

Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and specially trained primary care providers are trained to treat GAD. If your doctor doesn't have special training, ask for the name of a doctor or counselor who does.

Treatment involves the following:

MedicationsOther treatmentsAlternative and complementary therapies

Currently, surgical procedures are not a treatment option for GAD.

Revision Information

  • Chessick C, Allen M, et al. Azapirones for generalized anxiety. Cochrane Database. 2006;(3). DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006115.

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Anxiety Disorders Association of America website. Available at: http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad. Accessed October 29, 2008.

  • Generalized anxiety disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad.shtml. Update June 2008. Accessed October 29, 2008.

  • Hunot V, Churchill R, et al. Psychological therapies for generalised anxiety disorder. 2001;(1). DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001848.pub4.

  • Kapczinski F, Lima MS, et al. Antidepressants for generalized anxiety disorder. Cochrane Database. 2003;(2). DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003592.

  • Stern T, Rosenbaum J, et al. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2008.