Neurontin For Anxiety: Exploring Alternate Treatments

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated August 10, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anxiety disorders can have a severe impact on the ability to function normally. Standard anxiety treatments are often helpful but may not always be effective for everyone. Many people are beginning to explore alternative treatment options, and Neurontin for anxiety may be 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 practices, are touted by some as being effective for generalized anxiety disorder. When considering whether you can benefit from an alternative treatment like Neurontin, it can be essential to speak to your doctor. For a more traditional treatment route, you might work with a therapist in person or online to address your anxiety symptoms. 

Signs Of An Anxiety Disorder

Most people experience feelings of anxiety occasionally. Anxiety can be a normal response when faced with a challenging situation, such as a first date or speaking in front of a large crowd. Occasional anxiety is not necessarily a sign of an anxiety disorder. 

Anxiety disorders are usually characterized by a near-constant worry that doesn't go away. If you have an anxiety disorder, even when you know your worries are excessive or unproductive, you may find it difficult to stop them. An anxiety disorder can significantly impact your quality of life and ability to function.

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Symptoms of an anxiety disorder may include:

  • Persistent feelings of nervousness

  • Unrelenting worry

  • Fears that aren’t proportionate to reality

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Fatigue

  • 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, are often linked.

There can be many types of anxiety disorders that are usually categorized by the trigger for the symptoms. These may include social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other subtypes. 

What Causes An Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety can be caused by a combination of many factors, 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 tend to be broad and may involve a process of elimination to find what works for you.

In general, 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, if left unaddressed, can develop into a more serious condition. 

Therapeutic Methods Of Treating Anxiety 

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Research has shown that psychotherapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is typically the most effective treatment for anxiety. Most types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder, and PTSD, tend to respond very well to this type of therapy.

CBT normally teaches techniques to manage anxiety and guides the patient to identify their triggers and negative thought patterns so that they can replace them with healthier ones. The 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 found success with CBT in the past, other forms of therapy may also exist to help you manage and reduce your anxiety. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) usually teaches you methods of coping with uncomfortable and unpleasant thoughts while simultaneously changing your behavior. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) tends to combine some methods from CBT with mindfulness skills and distress tolerance.

Neurontin For Anxiety

Neurontin is generally an anticonvulsant medication currently 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 can also be available as a generic called gabapentin. 

In general, there have not been many studies performed to assess the effectiveness of Neurontin in treating anxiety. If you’re interested in trying Neurontin for anxiety, please speak to your doctor or psychiatrist.

Are There Side Effects Or Possible Drug Interactions?

When starting Neurontin, your doctor should 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 may include:

  • Dizziness

  • Impaired motor coordination

  • Fatigue

  • Memory problems

  • Vision changes

  • Constipation

  • Dry mouth

Drug interactions with Neurontin can include hydrocodone, valerian root, and clobazam. You should always discuss any medications and supplements 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 anxiety disorders. Please consult your doctor before adding any vitamins, supplements, or other remedies to your treatment regimen.

Vitamin D

Low levels of Vitamin D have frequently been linked to anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses, particularly seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Vitamin D is mainly derived from sun exposure and, to a lesser extent, diet. It's thought that over one billion people around the world may be Vitamin D deficient. People with darker skin tones may be particularly at risk for Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D can be a crucial nutrient that is typically needed for the body to function properly.

Calming Teas

Many people prefer calming tea blends that are purported to deliver relaxing results. Teas, such as peppermint, chamomile, and passionflower, can have a calming effect and ease nervousness. Green tea may also aid you in clearing your mind and lowering anxiety levels.

Magnesium Oxide 

Magnesium deficiency may be responsible for anxiety symptoms, particularly if you're experiencing heart palpitations and difficulty sleeping. Magnesium is normally involved in many bodily processes, and research has shown that supplementation may reduce anxiety symptoms. 

Nicotine And Anxiety

Many of those who smoke believe that nicotine lowers their anxiety, but research has found that this is usually only a temporary effect. Nicotine often increases anxiety symptoms. Therefore, quitting smoking may result in a decrease in anxiety symptoms.

Melatonin 

Melatonin is a hormone your body normally produces to help you feel relaxed and sleepy, which is why melatonin is often recommended for insomnia. Melatonin can be helpful for reducing anxiety symptoms, but because it can make you feel drowsy, it should normally only be taken around bedtime. 

Rhodiola Rosea 

Rhodiola rosea is an herb frequently referred to as an adaptogen, meaning it can work with your body's natural stress response to lower your symptoms of anxiety. Rhodiola rosea may improve anxiety symptoms and fatigue without significant side effects.

Many other supplements, such as niacin and turmeric, may decrease symptoms in some people. Treatment typically depends on each individual's unique biochemistry. Never begin a supplement without first speaking to your physician.

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Aromatherapy 

Aromatherapy usually involves inhaling the fumes of different types of essential oils, which are often thought to influence your central nervous system. Commonly used essential oils can include basil, lemon balm, jasmine, and lavender. Studies on essential oils for anxiety have shown that the most effective use typically involves therapeutic massage.

Biofeedback 

Biofeedback is a somewhat controversial treatment that can be used for ADHD, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Biofeedback generally involves attaching electrodes to an individual and monitoring their brain waves while performing a series of electronic tasks. The person may be guided to change their brain wave patterns consciously, which could theoretically allow them to better manage anxiety. 

Research is limited, but some improvement has been demonstrated for symptoms of GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) and PTSD.

Dietary Changes

Dietary changes can also assist you in managing your symptoms with steps like reducing caffeine and refined sugar intake. Sugar and anxiety may have a link since sugar can increase your body's overall response to stress, potentially 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.

Online Therapy For Anxiety

There may be many treatments for anxiety, but the end goal is usually the same: to reduce your symptoms and help you cope so you can regain control of your life. While studies have shown that psychotherapy can be one of the most effective ways to treat anxiety, many people find it difficult to begin. 

The reasons for this may depend on the individual’s circumstances, but some of the most common can include lack of convenience, hesitancy due to societal stigma, and affordability. 

Benefits Of Online Therapy

The rise in popularity of online therapy has potentially created a solution to these barriers, providing many people with the opportunity to speak with a therapist on their schedule via phone, video chat, or online messaging. There’s generally no need to travel to and from a brick-and-mortar office, and online therapy is often less expensive than speaking to a therapist in person. 

Effectiveness Of Online Therapy

According to various studies, online therapy can be particularly effective in treating anxiety and the effects of stress. Both in-person and online therapy may be helpful for you, and the decision may come down to convenience and personal preference.

Takeaway

Neurontin may be an effective anxiety treatment for some people, but it can be vital to speak to your doctor or psychiatrist before starting any form of medication. Other alternate treatment options for anxiety can include Vitamin D supplements, calming teas, magnesium supplements, melatonin, Rhodiola rosea, aromatherapy, biofeedback, and dietary changes. Again, please consult your doctor before adding any of these options to your treatment regimen. If you’re interested in trying more traditional anxiety treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy can be quite effective. You can begin therapy sessions in person or online.

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The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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