If you have anxiety, you’re not alone. Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the U.S., affecting about 40 million adults every year.
While there are many different types of anxiety disorders, symptoms often include feeling excessively worried or physiologically stressed.
If you’re looking for a way to cope with your anxiety, you may be considering taking gabapentin. It’s known as an anticonvulsant or antiepileptic drug.
Though it is commonly used to treat seizures, it can also help relieve pain and anxiety.
This article will give you all the information you need to know about gabapentin for anxiety, its effects, dosage, and side effects.
What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant) is a medicine used to treat partial seizures, nerve pain from shingles, and restless leg syndrome.
It is a prescription drug that comes as an oral capsule, an immediate-release oral tablet, an extended-release oral tablet, and an oral solution.
How Does Gabapentin Work?
Gabapentin may be used for the treatment of certain seizure disorders or nerve pain.
Research has shown that gabapentin binds strongly to a specific site (called the alpha2-delta site) on voltage-gated calcium channels.
This action is thought to be the mechanism for the way it relieves nerve pain and lowers the risk of seizures. Gabapentin belongs to the group of medicines known as anticonvulsants.
Gabapentin is used to:
- Prevent and control partial seizures. Gabapentin can be used in adults and children aged 3 and older who have partial seizures.
- Relieve nerve pain following shingles in adults. Shingles is a painful rash that develops many years after you’ve had chickenpox. The virus that causes chickenpox stays dormant in a portion of your spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. For whatever reason, this otherwise dormant virus gets reactivated — usually by stress — causing a shingles rash. Nerve pain following a case of shingles is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).
- Treat moderate-to-severe primary restless legs syndrome.
The branded gabapentin products Neurontin and Gralise are approved for partial seizures and PHN. The branded gabapentin enacarbil product Horizant is approved for restless legs syndrome and PHN.
Your healthcare provider will help you choose the best dose for you.
Potential Side Effects
Some common side effects of gabapentin can include:
- Feeling sleepy, tired or dizzy
- Mood changes
- Swollen arms and legs
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty getting an erection
- Weight gain
- Memory problems
- Getting more infections than usual
There are also a few serious side effects which include:
- Thoughts of harming or killing yourself
- A high temperature
- Swollen glands that do not go away
- Unusual bruises or bleeding
- Severe tiredness or weakness
- Unexpected muscle pain or weakness, with or without a rash
- Long-lasting stomach pain
- Feeling nauseous, with or without vomiting
In rare cases, it’s possible to have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to gabapentin.
How Long Does it Take Gabapentin to Work for Anxiety?
It may take a few weeks or longer to see benefits from gabapentin for anxiety.
Research shows that gabapentin is typically effective after 4 weeks of treatment, and the benefits continue after 8 weeks of treatment.
There are a few alternative treatments to gabapentin, including the below:
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants.
They can ease symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety, are relatively safe and typically cause fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants do.
SSRIs approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include:
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are a class of medications that are effective in treating depression.
SNRIs are also sometimes used to treat other conditions, such as anxiety disorders and long-term (chronic) pain, especially nerve pain. They may be helpful if you have chronic pain in addition to depression.
SNRIs approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat anxiety include:
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)
Other Anxiety Treatment Options
Other anxiety treatment options include the following:
If you have anxiety, you may benefit from psychotherapy (a type of counseling).
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that can be effective for treating anxiety.
During CBT, you work with a therapist to decrease triggers of anxiety, work with unhelpful behaviors and thoughts that have a negative impact on your life, and learn healthy coping strategies.
CBT can take place in individual therapy sessions or in group therapy.
Some people find that alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, or aromatherapy, help ease their anxiety.
Making lifestyle changes can also help ease anxiety.
Some lifestyle changes that may help include:
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting enough sleep
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Avoiding caffeine
- Practicing relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing
- Joining support groups
Self-care is important because it can help improve your mood, mental health, and overall well-being.
It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming.
There are plenty of simple things you can do every day to take care of yourself. Here are some self-care ideas to get you started:
- Get enough sleep: Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Consider going to bed and waking up at the same time each day to help regulate your body’s natural sleep rhythm.
- Eat healthy: Eating nutritious foods helps your body to function at its best. Make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet.
- Stay active: Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. A moderate amount of exercise is the key; too much or too little can actually increase anxiety levels.
- Take breaks: When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a few minutes to yourself to relax and rejuvenate. Take a hot bath, read your favorite book, or take a walk outdoors.
- Connect with loved ones: Spending time with people you care about can help reduce stress and promote positive emotions. Whether you stay in touch via text, social media, or in person, quality time with loved ones is crucial for a healthy mind and body.
When to See a Medical Professional
You should see your healthcare professional if anxiety is affecting your daily life or causing you distress.
They can diagnose your condition based on your symptoms, which may include feeling restless or on edge, being irritable, feeling unable to concentrate, feeling tense or jumpy, and having trouble sleeping.
If your healthcare professional determines that you have an anxiety disorder, they will likely recommend treatment.
How K Health Can Help
At this time, K Health does not prescribe gabapentin.
Did you know you can get affordable mental health care with the K Health app?
Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a healthcare provider in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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Efficacy of gabapentin for prevention of postherpetic neuralgia: study protocol for a randomized controlled clinical trial. (2017.)
A Randomized, Controlled, Double-Blinded Clinical Trial of Gabapentin 300mg versus 900mg versus Placebo for Anxiety Symptoms in Breast Cancer Survivors. (2012.)
Treatment of social phobia with gabapentin: a placebo-controlled study. (1999.)
Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder with Gabapentin. (2017.)
Gabapentin and Tiagabine for Social Anxiety: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Crossover Study of 8 Adults. (2009.)
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) Information. (2014.)
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FDA requiring Boxed Warning updated to improve safe use of benzodiazepine drug class. (2020.)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders: an update on the empirical evidence. (2015.)