Gabapentin for Anxiety: Side Effects, Dosage, & FAQs

August 29, 2023

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Gabapentin is typically not employed as a standalone treatment for anxiety disorders. It is more frequently prescribed to alleviate anxiety symptoms in individuals who also grapple with depression or bipolar disorder, as these conditions often coexist. 

For those wondering, “Does gabapentin help with anxiety”, the effectiveness of gabapentin used for anxiety in isolation might be limited. Gabapentin ­– available as Neurontin, Gralise, Gabarone, and Fanatrex – is an anticonvulsant medication approved by the FDA in December 1993 for the following primary purposes:

  • Managing specific seizure types in epilepsy patients.
  • Easing nerve pain linked to conditions like shingles (characterized by burning, stabbing, or aching sensations).
  • Alleviating symptoms of RLS (restless legs syndrome).

Despite its intended uses, gabapentin has also been used off-label in the field of psychiatry. It has been employed to address treatment-resistant mood and anxiety disorders, along with alcohol withdrawal and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

How does gabapentin work for anxiety, then? While this form of medication management is known to reduce abnormal brain excitement contributing to seizures and alter pain perception for nerve-related discomfort, the precise mechanisms underlying its effects on psychiatric conditions remain unclear.

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Read on to discover:

  • Can gabapentin be used for anxiety?
  • Can gabapentin help with anxiety?
  • How to connect with treatment for anxiety disorders in Southern California.
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Is Gabapentin Good for Anxiety?

Gabapentin is a synthetic version of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). The drug functions by imitating the role of GABA in signal transmission between nerve cells. GABA helps moderate brain neuron activity, and similarly, gabapentin can induce brain quietude and diminish nerve-based pain transmission.

The effectiveness of gabapentin anxiety is a topic of ongoing research and debate within the medical community. While gabapentin was originally developed to address seizures and nerve pain, its potential role in managing anxiety has gained attention. Here are key points to consider regarding gabapentin for anxiety:

  • Limited FDA approval: Gabapentin is not specifically approved by the FDA for treating anxiety disorders. Its primary approvals are for epilepsy, nerve pain, and RLS. That said, healthcare providers sometimes prescribe gabapentin off-label for anxiety when conventional treatments have not been successful.
  • Mixed research results: Clinical studies investigating gabapentin’s effectiveness for anxiety have yielded mixed results. Some studies suggest possible benefits, while other research suggests that improvement in anxiety symptoms is only milder better than that induced by a placebo. An animal study suggested that the medication has anxiolytic effects, and another study observed reduced anxiety levels in one patient who found that SSRI antidepressants were ineffective.
  • Individual variation: Responses to gabapentin can vary widely among individuals. While some people might experience reduced anxiety when taking gabapentin, others may not find it effective. Dosage, duration of use, and an individual’s specific anxiety condition can all influence the outcomes.
  • Comorbidity considerations: Gabapentin may be more commonly prescribed for anxiety in those who also have coexisting conditions like depression or bipolar disorder. It can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses multiple aspects of mental health.
  • Anecdotal evidence: Some individuals report experiencing reduced anxiety while taking gabapentin. Anecdotal accounts suggest that it can promote feelings of calmness and relaxation in certain cases.
  • Caution and monitoring: If gabapentin is prescribed for anxiety, it is vital to work closely with a healthcare provider. Regular monitoring and communication can assess the medication’s impact on anxiety symptoms, allowing for any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.

Gabapentin’s potential for managing generalized anxiety disorder is still being explored, then. While it may offer benefits for some individuals, the medication is not a first-line treatment for anxiety disorders, and its use should be carefully considered in consultation with a medical professional. Keep expectations realistic and explore a range of treatment options to find the most effective approach for managing anxiety.

Gabapentin Dose for Anxiety

The appropriate dosage of gabapentin for anxiety can vary based on individual factors, including the severity of anxiety, the presence of any underlying conditions, and individual response to the medication. Gabapentin is not approved by the FDA specifically for treating anxiety, so its use for this purpose is considered off-label.

When prescribed off-label for anxiety, gabapentin dosages typically fall within a range of 300mg to 1,200mg per day, divided into multiple doses. The dosing regimen and frequency are determined by a medical professional based on the individual’s needs and response to the medication. It is common to start at a lower dose and gradually increase it over time to achieve the desired effect while minimizing potential side effects.

Ultimately, the decision to use gabapentin for anxiety and the determination of the appropriate dosage should be made in collaboration with a qualified medical professional who can provide personalized guidance based on the individual’s specific circumstances.

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Gabapentin Side Effects

While gabapentin may offer therapeutic benefits for certain conditions, potential side effects that may occur. The severity and prevalence of these side effects can differ from person to person. When considering gabapentin as a treatment option, discuss potential side effects with the prescribing physician. Here are some common and less common side effects associated with gabapentin use:

Common side effects may include:

  • Dizziness: One of the most commonly reported side effects, gabapentin can cause dizziness or a feeling of lightheadedness.
  • Drowsiness: Some people may experience drowsiness or fatigue, especially when first starting gabapentin or when the dosage is increased.
  • Coordination issues: Difficulty with coordination, balance, or motor skills can occur in some people.
  • Nausea or upset stomach: Gastrointestinal discomfort, including nausea, vomiting, or stomach upset, can be side effects of gabapentin.
  • Weight gain: Some individuals may experience weight gain while taking gabapentin.

Less common side effects may include:

  • Mood changes: In some cases, gabapentin may lead to mood changes, including increased irritability or agitation.
  • Visual disturbances: Rarely, gabapentin use may result in blurred vision or other visual disturbances.
  • Swelling: Edema or swelling in the extremities can occur in a small number of individuals.
  • Skin reactions: Infrequently, gabapentin may cause skin reactions such as rash or hives.
  • Suicidal thoughts: While extremely uncommon, some people may experience an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior while taking gabapentin. Close monitoring is key, especially during the early stages of treatment.

Not everyone will experience these side effects, and some people may experience side effects not listed here. Additionally, side effects can often diminish or become more tolerable over time as the body adjusts to the medication. If side effects are severe, persistent, or concerning, speak with a healthcare provider. They can offer guidance on managing side effects, adjusting the dosage, or exploring alternative treatment options.

FAQs

How quickly does gabapentin work for anxiety?

How long does gabapentin take to work for anxiety may vary, but some people might start to experience its effects within a few days to a week. It may, though, take several weeks of consistent use to achieve the full therapeutic benefits.

How does gabapentin help anxiety?

Gabapentin is believed to have anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects by affecting certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). It may help regulate excessive neural activity associated with anxiety, contributing to a sense of calm.

Is gabapentin commonly prescribed for anxiety?

While gabapentin is approved to treat epilepsy and neuropathic pain, some doctors may prescribe it off-label for anxiety disorders, particularly in cases where traditional anxiety medications have not been effective or are not suitable. However, its use for anxiety is less common than other medications specifically indicated for anxiety.

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Get Treatment for Anxiety at Connections

If you require compassionate and cutting-edge mental health treatment in Orange County, we can help you at Connections Mental Health. We offer personalized anxiety treatment in Orange County and other types of mental health conditions at our beachside facility.

Most people grappling with mental health conditions crave stability and peace, both of which are central to our small person-first facility. Our committed team of experts blend evidence-based and holistic therapies to help initiate whole-body healing. Medical professionals will administer any medications you require during ongoing inpatient anxiety treatment.

Whether you or a loved one requires help restoring functioning and improving overall well-being as a result of anxiety disorder, call Connections Mental Health at 844-413-0009 for immediate assistance.

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