Doctors may prescribe risperidone for anxiety when traditional anxiety treatments have been ineffective. Though this drug is usually used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in some patients, it can be an effective treatment for generalized anxiety disorder. Medical studies have shown that most patients who take risperidone for treating anxiety show a decrease in their symptoms. The drug is usually taken as needed and at low doses because the long term effects can cause adverse health effects.
Risperidone is a type of antipsychotic drug that works by interfering with a patient's ability to use both serotonin and dopamine. In psychotic disorders, a surplus of these chemical messengers can cause the person to disconnect with reality. Patients with generalized anxiety disorder may also suffer from an imbalance in one or both of these chemicals and risperidone can be used to help correct these imbalances. In most cases, doctors will prescribe risperidone for anxiety only after other treatments have been unsuccessful.
Patients with generalized anxiety disorder can take a test that is designed to rate how severe the symptoms of the disorder are. This test, called the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, quantifies a patient's anxiety by asking the patient to rate the severity of 14 different symptoms of anxiety. By examining the results of this test before and after giving patients risperidone, doctors have determined that the use of this drug can reduce the symptoms of anxiety in most patients, often significantly.
Many patients who are given risperidone for anxiety will be given a low dose of between 0.5 milligrams and 1.5 milligrams. This drug is generally not considered safe to take continuously for long periods of time, so patients taking it for anxiety will usually only use the medication on an as-needed basis. Daily use of risperidone can lead to serious health complications, including diabetes and nervous system disorders. When taken intermittently, the risks of developing these conditions are greatly diminished.
The use of risperidone for anxiety is a relatively new practice in 2011, and the long-term effects of this medication are not all known. A doctor will carefully weigh the benefits of this drug against its potential side effects before prescribing it to a patient with anxiety. Most patients tolerate the medication well, despite side effects such as drowsiness and nausea, and find that the decrease in anxiety is sufficient to warrant its continued use.