Can Lamictal (Lamotrigine) Cause or Treat Anxiety?

How Lamictal Works, Side Effects and Precautions

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Lamictal (lamotrigine), a mood stabilizer and anticonvulsant, is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of any anxiety disorders, though it is approved to treat bipolar disorder and seizure disorders.

Lamictal and Anxiety

When Lamictal went through clinical trials, anxiety as a side effect was reported by 4% of participants, but 3% of the control group also reported anxiety, so this would be considered a rare side effect.

Even though treatment of anxiety isn't an approved use for Lamictal, some doctors do prescribe it to patients who have conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder, among others.

There is no concrete evidence that Lamictal helps with anxiety, and also none that it causes it to any great degree, though anxiety is listed as a potential side effect. 

One recent study showed that Lamictal might be helpful for people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but the class of mood stabilizers as a whole is considered uncertain to treat PTSD, which is an anxiety disorder.

How Lamictal Works

Lamictal was the second medication, after lithium, to be approved by the FDA for use in treating bipolar disorder as a mood stabilizer to prevent manic or hypomanic and depressive episodes. Typically used to treat seizure disorders such as epilepsy, Lamictal works by decreasing abnormal activity in the brain and seems to be particularly effective for the depressive episodes of bipolar disorder.

It is also sometimes used to treat other mood disorders that are not treatable with other medications, including PTSD, borderline personality disorder, schizoaffective disorder, depression and depersonalization disorder.

Common Side Effects of Lamictal

If any of these common side effects don't go away or are bothersome contact your doctor.

  • Weight loss
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Loss of balance
  • Eye movement that you can't control
  • Trouble speaking
  • Missed or painful menstrual periods
  • Double vision
  • Concentration problems
  • Appetite loss

Serious Side Effects of Lamictal

Call your doctor right away if you experience any of these serious side effects while taking Lamictal:

  • Chest pain
  • Stiff neck
  • Passing out
  • Abnormal seizure activity
  • Swelling in your hands, feet, arms or legs
  • Headache
  • Light sensitivity

Precautions Regarding Lamictal

Discuss your health history in detail with your doctor before beginning Lamictal. Potential issues to be aware of include:

  • Any allergy to lamotrigine or any other ingredients found in Lamictal
  • Lamictal can interact with other medications, whether they're over-the-counter, prescription, or simple vitamins and supplements. Be sure to tell your doctor everything you are taking so your doses can be adjusted or monitored if necessary.
  • If you become pregnant while using Lamictal, let your doctor know right away.
  • Drinking alcohol can add to the drowsiness you may already feel from Lamictal.
  • Because of its tendency to make you feel drowsy, especially until you get used to it, don't drive or operate heavy machinery until you have been on Lamictal for a while and are sure of how it affects you.
  • Tell your doctor if you have ever had an autoimmune disease like lupus, a blood disorder or a kidney or liver disease.

Sources:

Jeffreys, M. "Clinician's Guide to Medications for PTSD." U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (2016).

"Lamotrigine." MedLine Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine (2015).

"Lamotrigine." Stanford Medicine: Psychiatric Medications (2016).

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