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Gabapentin for Anxiety

gabapentin for anxiety

There’s a difference between everyday anxiety and anxiety disorders. Feeling anxiety before a big event or when you’re under stress is normal, but an anxiety disorder may cause you to feel worried, afraid, or even panic and terror that is not consistent with your current situation. With an anxiety disorder, your body will react disproportionately to a problem or may even cause fear and worry for no reason at all. While it isn’t labeled for use in this way, a growing number of people are trying gabapentin for anxiety treatment.

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What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is a prescription medication that is usually prescribed to treat epilepsy and is also approved by the FDA for the treatment of nerve pain due to shingles and to treat chronic restless leg syndrome. It relieves pain and is used off-label to treat diabetic nerve pain and opioid withdrawal symptoms, and some doctors also prescribe gabapentin for anxiety.

When a person takes gabapentin, the medication influences their neurotransmitters, altering the electrical activity in the brain and reducing the excitability of nerve cells. This helps it to block pain messages traveling through the brain and spine. It can also help produce a calming effect by mimicking GABA neurotransmitters.

Gabapentin’s Role in Treating Anxiety

Gabapentin is used off-label to treat symptoms of many health issues, including nerve pain, alcohol withdrawal, and hot flashes, and it is also sometimes prescribed to people with anxiety disorders. Although there haven’t been many studies done on the effectiveness of using gabapentin for anxiety, some scientists and doctors agree that it can help reduce panic attacks and treat social anxiety in people who have not responded to other, more common treatments like lorazepam or clonazepam.

Dosage and Administration of Gabapentin for Anxiety

Because gabapentin is not FDA-approved as a prescription for anxiety disorders, it is an off-label prescription. Your doctor is still allowed to prescribe gabapentin for anxiety if they believe it is a logical choice that will help ease your symptoms without causing additional health issues. 

anxiety and gabapentin

You might be given gabapentin in capsule, tablet, extended-release tablet, solution, or suspension form. Doses for gabapentin vary depending on the use and your unique needs. They can range from 300 to 3,600 mg daily and may be split into three equal doses throughout the day. 

It can take a few weeks to notice a difference in your anxiety levels. When prescribed for anxiety, it is usually recommended to take it at night, as it may cause you to feel relaxed and can help you sleep through the night. Always follow your doctor’s instructions when taking this medication. 

Benefits and Risks of Using Gabapentin for Anxiety

Some advantages of using gabapentin to treat your anxiety are:

  • Lowered daily anxiety.
  • Low risk of developing dependence.
  • It can help people who have not seen improvement when trying other anti-anxiety drugs.

Some of the risks you face include:

  • Side effects like fatigue, sleepiness, coordination problems, dizziness, and swelling of the legs and feet
  • You have to be careful what other medications, substances, or supplements you use while on this medication to avoid overdosing.
  • Stopping the medication too fast may cause withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, nausea, light sensitivity, dizziness, headaches, and sweating. This is why it’s important to know if wondering is gabapentin addictive that, yes, it can be.

What Causes Anxiety, and What Are the Common Anxiety Disorders?

There is no specific cause or “anxiety gene” that researchers can point to that causes a person to develop an anxiety disorder. Some have anxiety as children after experiencing trauma, others develop it due to a medical condition, while others may experience it due to a mental health disorder

The brain becomes hypervigilant, and you may feel irritable, fatigued, jumpy, and unable to relax, with strong emotional responses, tense muscles, and high blood pressure. Some people feel constantly worried, while others experience panic attacks, with floods of adrenaline that cause a fight or flight response. Some common anxiety disorders are:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder is a persistent feeling of dread or fear that continues, growing stronger over hours or days, which is disproportionate to the reality of what the person is experiencing. They may feel constantly worried or on edge, with sleep issues, difficulty concentrating, and unexplained body pains. The psychological impacts of GAD can affect the person’s life and make them irritable and restless.
  • Phobias are intense fears or aversion to a specific trigger, which can range from clowns to needles. Running into the trigger can cause extreme discomfort, and they may worry excessively that they will encounter the object or situation and take steps to avoid it.
  • Panic disorder causes a person to experience frequent, unprovoked responses by the fight-or-flight system in the body, with feelings of intense fear or impending doom. Physically, they may experience hyperventilation, racing heart, discomfort, sweating, trembling, and chest pain. At times, panic attacks can be mistaken for heart attacks.
  • Social anxiety disorder is an intense fear of being watched and judged by others, making it difficult for the person to be in public or around other people. They feel extremely self-conscious and have difficulty being around people they don’t know. Symptoms include blushing, worry, fear of judgment, racing heart, sweating, stomach aches, and rigid body posture.

Understanding Anxiety and Its Treatments

These conditions can negatively affect a person’s day-to-day life and are often treated after a person’s primary care physician recognizes the symptoms. Traditional treatments for anxiety include a combination of medications and therapy. Some doctors will prescribe off-label gabapentin for anxiety. Other anti-anxiety medications are:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax).
  • Diazepam (Valium).
  • Oxazepam (Serax).
  • Clonazepam (Rivoltri).
  • Lorazepam (Ativan).
  • Bromazepam (Lectopam).
  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium).
  • Clorazepate (Tranxene).

These are taken orally or sublingually (dissolved under the tongue), and some are found in an injectable solution. They help regulate sleep and reduce symptoms of stress and panic, but most of these medications can be habit-forming and can only be prescribed for short-term treatment. 

Therapy is another important part of anxiety treatment. Some of the top modalities used when treating anxiety include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help a person understand how to make positive changes to their thoughts, beliefs, and emotions by changing their behaviors and learning coping skills to help manage their symptoms.
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) helps a person learn to regulate their emotions, practice mindfulness, gain better interpersonal effectiveness, and improve their distress tolerance.
  • Psychoeducational therapy to understand more about mental health and why it causes the feelings and emotions it does.
  • Skills development groups teach the person new ways to live with mental health symptoms and de-escalate their own emotional responses.
  • One-on-one psychotherapy to address any underlying symptoms and trauma-related disorders that may be contributing to the anxiety and panic.
  • Group therapy and support group sessions allow people to work together, share experiences, brainstorm, practice interpersonal communication, and work on their emotional development while helping them feel less alone in what they are experiencing.

Alternatives to Gabapentin for Anxiety Management

Everybody is different when it comes to treating anxiety because there are usually multiple underlying causes to deal with. A comprehensive treatment plan can improve your chances of overcoming debilitating anxiety symptoms. You may want to try medication, but if it’s not working, or if you’d rather try alternative methods, you may want to try:

  • Therapy includes cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, and group therapy.
  • Support groups can offer camaraderie and friendship and help you understand that you are not “going crazy” and that you are not alone in feeling this way.
  • Exercise, sleeping well, eating well, and living a healthy life will reduce stress hormones in your body.
  • Staying socially active, with a strong support group around you who will not only be there to talk to when times are tough but who you can also have fun with.
  • Try spiritual health practices for stress reduction, like yoga, meditation, breathwork, and mindfulness.
  • Work on your communication skills to ensure that those around you are meeting your needs.
  • Take care of problems as they come up rather than letting them weigh on you.
  • Avoid alcohol and drug use, as they can become your coping mechanism and may turn into a co-occurring substance use disorder.

If you have been using drugs or alcohol and have an anxiety disorder, Resurgence Behavioral Health treatment center can offer you a dual-diagnosis treatment plan that will treat both issues at the same time, in the same place, giving you the best chance at feeling better and getting sober, long-term. Please call us at 855-458-0050 or contact us online. We understand, and we can help.

Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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