Neurontin For Anxiety: Exploring Alternate Treatments
By Abigail Boyd
Updated May 12, 2020
Reviewer Melinda Santa
If you've been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder then you're probably looking for any way get relief. Anxiety disorders can have a severe impact on our ability to function normally due to symptoms such as excessive worrying, racing thoughts, panic attacks, and the urge to isolate.
Standard anxiety treatments can be helpful but may not always be effective for taming these symptoms. As such, many people are beginning to explore alternative treatment options. Neurontin for anxiety is one such treatment. Neurontin is a medication that is sometimes prescribed off-label for symptoms of anxiety when other treatments have failed.
Other alternative treatments, ranging from supplements to new age healing, are touted by some as being effective for anxiety. So what is good for anxiety? Let's explore these different potential anxiety solutions to see if there's any evidence to back up their claims.
Signs of an Anxiety Disorder
Everyone feels anxious from time to time. It's a normal response when faced with a nerve-wracking situation, such as a first date or speaking in front of a large crowd. Occasional anxiety is not a sign of an anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder is defined by a near-constant worry that doesn't go away. If you have an anxiety disorder, even if you know your worries are excessive or aren't helping, you can't stop having them. An anxiety disorder can significantly impact your quality of life and ability to function.
Symptoms of an anxiety disorder include:
- Persistent feeling of nervousness
- Unrelenting worry
- Fears may not be proportionate to reality
- Trouble concentrating
- Rapid heart rate and breathing
- Excessive sweating
- Panic attacks - isolated incidents of intense fear and physical symptoms
Anxiety can cause an increase in stress hormones throughout the body. High cortisol and anxiety, as well as increased norepinephrine and adrenaline, have all been linked.
There are many other types of anxiety disorders, categorized by the trigger for the symptoms. These include Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other subtypes. A doctor can diagnose you with a specific type of anxiety disorder.
What Causes an Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety can be caused by many things, from genetics to life circumstances to negative experiences to nutritional deficiencies. Multiple causes may be at play. Sometimes, no cause can be identified. As such, the treatments for anxiety are broad and may involve a process of elimination to find what works for you.
You should seek treatment for your anxiety when you recognize that the symptoms are interfering with your ability to live your life. Anxiety usually doesn't go away on its own, and the sooner you get help, the faster you can regain control of your life.
Standard Anxiety Treatment
Best Antidepressants for Anxiety
Research has shown that the most effective antidepressants for anxiety are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which include Lexapro and Zoloft. However, these medications only relieved depression in a little over half of patients and have a tendency to have side effects. This has led to the search for other, more effective treatments with fewer side effects.
Some people respond to short-term therapy using benzodiazepines, including Xanax and Klonopin. Due to their addictive nature, however, it's recommended that these drugs can only be used for a limited time.
Mood stabilizers for anxiety are usually only reserved for those who have bipolar disorder. These drugs, such as lithium, are effective for mania and some episodes of anxiety.
Therapy for Anxiety
Research has shown that therapy, particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), is the most effective current treatment for anxiety. Most types of anxiety disorders, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder, and PTSD, respond very well to this type of therapy. CBT has been extensively researched for many years and shown to be effective.
CBT teaches techniques to manage anxiety, as well as guides the patient to identify their triggers and negative thought patterns and slowly replace them with healthier ones. Benefits of this type of therapy usually take a few weeks, but the skills that are taught can last a lifetime.
If you haven't been successful using CBT in the past, other forms of therapy also exist to help you manage and reduce your anxiety. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) teaches you methods of coping with uncomfortable and unpleasant thoughts while simultaneously changing your behavior. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) combines some methods from CBT with mindfulness skills and distress tolerance.
Neurontin for Anxiety
What is Neurontin?
Neurontin is an anticonvulsant medication currently only approved by the FDA to treat seizures and nerve pain. Neurontin is also sometimes prescribed off-label to treat mood and anxiety disorders, restless leg syndrome, and tardive dyskinesia. Neurontin is the brand name, but the medication is also available as a generic, called gabapentin.
Does Neurontin Work to Treat Anxiety?
There have not been many studies performed to assess the ability of Neurontin to effectively treat anxiety. Some research has shown it to work for certain patients to reduce their anxiety symptoms.
How is Neurontin Taken?
Generally, the starting dose for Neurontin is 300 mg by mouth before bed, once a day. The dose is gradually increased until the desired effect is reached.
Are There Side Effects or Possible Drug Interactions?
When starting Neurontin, monitor closely for side effects. Report any side effects promptly to your doctor, but do not stop taking the medication abruptly unless directed to do so. Possible side effects include:
- Impaired motor coordination
- Memory problems
- Vision changes
- Dry Mouth
Drug interactions with Neurontin include hydrocodone, valerian root, and clobazam. You should always discuss any medications you are currently taking with your doctor before starting Neurontin.
If Neurontin is not an option for you, there are many vitamins and supplements that can be used to manage an anxiety disorder.
Vitamins and Supplements for ADHD
Vitamin D and Anxiety
Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to anxiety and depression, among other conditions, particularly Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Vitamin D is derived mainly from sun exposure and, to a lesser extent, your diet. It's thought that over one billion people around the world are Vitamin D deficient. People with darker skin tones are particularly at risk for Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient that is needed throughout the body to function properly.
Many people swear by calming tea blends that are purported to deliver relaxing results. Teas such as peppermint, chamomile, and passionflower for anxiety have been shown to have a calming effect and ease nervousness. Green tea, in particular, may aid you in clearing your mind and lowering mental anxiety.
Magnesium Oxide for Anxiety
Does magnesium help with anxiety? It appears so. Magnesium deficiency may be responsible for anxiety symptoms, particularly if you're experiencing heart palpitations and difficulty sleeping. Magnesium is also involved in many bodily processes and research has shown that supplementation may reduce anxiety symptoms. How much magnesium for anxiety? Typically, it's recommended that women take about 300 mg a day and men take about 400 mg. Consult your doctor or dietician for specific recommendations.
Nicotine and Anxiety
A lot of smokers claim that nicotine lowers their anxiety, but research has found that this is only a temporary effect. Nicotine has been shown many times to increase anxiety symptoms.
Does Melatonin Help With Anxiety?
Melatonin is a hormone your body produces to make you feel relaxed and sleepy, which is why melatonin is often recommended for insomnia. Melatonin can be helpful for reducing anxiety symptoms, but due to its drowsy effect, it should only be taken around bedtime.
Rhodiola Rosea for Anxiety
Rhodiola Rosea is an herb that is known as an adaptogen, meaning it works with your body's natural stress response to lower your symptoms of anxiety. Rhodiola Rosea has been shown to improve anxiety symptoms and fatigue without significant side effects.
Many other supplements, such as niacin and turmeric for anxiety, may manage symptoms for some people. Treatment depends on each individual's unique biochemistry. Never begin a supplement without first speaking to your physician.
Other Alternative Treatments
Aromatherapy for Anxiety
Aromatherapy involves inhaling the fumes of different types of essential oils, which is thought to have an effect on your central nervous system. Commonly used essential oils are basil, lemon balm, jasmine, and lavender for anxiety. Studies on essential oils for anxiety have shown the most effective use involves therapeutic massage.
Biofeedback for Anxiety
Biofeedback is a somewhat controversial treatment that is used for ADHD, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Biofeedback involves attaching electrodes to a person and monitoring their brain waves while performing a series of electronic tasks. The person is guided to change their brain wave patterns consciously, which could theoretically allow you to better manage anxiety. Research is limited but some improvement has been demonstrated for symptoms of GAD and PSTD.
Other alternative treatments, such as healing stones for anxiety or using a fidget spinner for anxiety, have less evidence to support their ability to reduce symptoms. Some people have found binaural beats for anxiety played while they're working to help them maintain focus. Games for anxiety can help you reduce your stress level while doing something you enjoy.
Dietary changes can also assist you in managing your symptoms with steps such as reducing caffeine and refined sugar intake. Sugar and anxiety may have a link, since sugar can increase your body's overall response to stress, elevating your mood before causing a crash. Speak to your doctor about steps you can take to improve your diet if you believe this could be contributing to your anxiety.
There are many treatments for anxiety, but the end goal is always the same: reducing your symptoms and helping you cope so that you can regain control of your life. It's not always easy to find a therapist you connect with or to make time in your schedule to attend appointments. BetterHelp offers affordable online therapy that can be accessed conveniently on your own terms.