Randall D. Marshall, MD

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Effective Pharmacological Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorders

March 1st 2008

Cumulative research with animal, normative, and clinical populations over several decades shows that the mechanisms underlying anxiety disorders differ from those of the normal emotion of anxiety. In persons with anxiety disorders, fear and tension are disproportionate to the actual threat and may be present when no real threat exists, thereby generating an expectation of danger and distorted perceptions related to danger and various types of threats. The most common anxiety disorders are social anxiety disorder (SAD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Persons with SAD can experience a wide range of social fears as well as severe functional consequences, whereas persons with GAD tend to experience emotional, interpersonal, and somatic symptoms of high levels of chronic anxiety. Persons with PTSD have vivid memories of and thoughts about a terrifying event or ordeal that lead to the development of anxiety, depression, and functional impairment. Effective treatment options-pharmacotherapy; psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy; or a combination-can be discussed openly with the patient to make a collaborative, informed decision. A variety of medications can be used to successfully manage anxiety disorders, of which SSRIs and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are the most effective. When properly used, medications can enhance a patient's own efforts to master anxiety; overcome fearful avoidance; and address troubling behaviors, patterns, or memories. (Drug Benefit Trends. 2008;20:101-113)

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