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Paxil For Anxiety: Benefits, Side Effects, and More

Katelyn Hagerty

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 7/13/2022

Approximately 40 million adults in the United States deal with an anxiety disorder every year. Unfortunately, fewer than 37 percent of those who deal with anxiety disorders seek treatment. If you’re dealing with anxiety, don’t fall into this unfortunate statistic.

There are many treatment options for anxiety, and if you start researching medications for anxiety, you may come across Paxil. It is an antidepressant that is sometimes prescribed for anxiety disorders and other mental disorders. 

It has been shown to be an effective option for treatment of anxiety generally, but a medical professional will be able to tell you if it’s a good option for you specifically. In the meantime, read on to learn more about this medication.

Dealing With Anxiety

There are a few different types of anxiety disorders and it’s helpful to learn about them so that you can identify which one you may be dealing with.

The most common anxiety disorder is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). If you have trouble controlling your anxiety more often than not over a course of six months, you may have GAD. Symptoms associated with GAD include an increased heart rate, fatigue, irritability, nervousness, difficulty sleeping and more.

In addition to GAD, there are four other types of anxiety disorders. They are:

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Do you have difficulty with recurrent intrusive thoughts or compulsive behaviors (like washing your hands over and over)? It may be OCD.

  • Social Anxiety Disorder: Also referred to as social phobia, this disorder manifests as feeling anxious and overwhelmed in social experiences. It could be general situations or specific to things like public speaking. 

  • Panic Disorder: Overwhelming fear, heart palpitations and shortness of breath are all signs of this type of anxiety disorder. It’s not uncommon to have a panic attack if you have panic disorder.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): After a traumatic event — like serving in the military or being the victim of violence — some people develop PTSD.

While it’s good to know about these anxiety disorders, you shouldn’t diagnose anxiety on your own. If you think you may be dealing with an anxiety disorder, it’s best to schedule a consultation with a healthcare professional to receive proper medical advice.

What is Paxil?

If you are dealing with an anxiety disorder, there are a number of medications that may help. One you may have heard of is Paxil, also known by the generic name paroxetine. It is an antidepressant and in a class of medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. 

SSRIs are a common type of antidepressant. They work by blocking your brain cells from reabsorbing serotonin, which increases your levels of this neurotransmitter. Serotonin levels have been connected to depressive disorders and anxiety, so more serotonin can mean less depression or anxiety. 

Paroxetine is commonly prescribed for a number of mental health issues, such as:  

It is also sometimes used in the treatment of premenstrual dysphoric disorder and certain symptoms of menopause. 

This antidepressant is available in tablets, liquid, and extended-release tablets. 

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Using Paxil For Anxiety

As mentioned above, paroxetine is sometimes prescribed to treat various anxiety disorders, like GAD, OCD, PTSD and social anxiety disorder. 

While it won’t cure these conditions, it can help address and manage the symptoms. Generally, you’ll need to take paroxetine for a few weeks before you notice any difference in symptoms.

So, does paroxetine actually work to treat anxiety? Research suggests it can. 

One study of 324 patients with generalized anxiety disorder looked at Paxil’s effectiveness in treating symptoms in comparison to a placebo. Those who took doses of 20 to 50 mg of paroxetine daily noticed an improvement in symptoms of GAD — especially after eight weeks of treatment.

Another smaller study, this one of 183 people, looked at how paroxetine helped people with social anxiety disorder.  What it found was that taking this antidepressant for 11 weeks resulted in a substantial reduction of symptoms — though we’ll caution this isn’t exactly a recent study. 

These results suggest that anxiety can be treated with paroxetine. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it works for everyone. To figure out if paroxetine could be a good fit for you, schedule a consultation with a healthcare professional. It’s also a good idea to have a solid understanding of the side effects associated with this medication. 

Common Side Effects of Paroxetine/Paxil

All medications have some potential adverse effects associated with them — including paroxetine. 

Some of the more common adverse effects of paroxetine are: 

  • Dizziness

  • Headaches

  • Dry mouth

  • Confusion and forgetfulness

  • Weakness

  • Vomiting and diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Heartburn

  • Weight loss or weight gain

  • Sexual side effects, like decreased sex drive

  • Back pain

  • Joint swelling

If you experience any of these and they don’t go away, you should speak to a medical professional. Additionally, if you notice any of the following serious side effects from paroxetine, contact a healthcare provider immediately. They could be signs of an allergic reaction or another serious reaction.

  • Chest pain

  • Difficulty breathing 

  • Seizures

  • Fainting

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Seeing things or hearing voices that aren’t really there (hallucinations)

  • Abnormal bleeding or bruising

  • Uncontrollable shaking

  • Hives or rash

  • Tingling of the hands, feet, arms or legs

  • Eye pain or blurry vision

You should also review any medications you’re taking with a healthcare provider before you start taking paroxetine to ensure that there aren’t any possible dangerous interactions. You also want a medical professional to be able to monitor you for an allergic reaction to paroxetine — or any other medications. 

If you do start taking Paxil but then decide you don’t want to take it anymore, do not suddenly stop taking it — this can cause withdrawal symptoms. Instead, work with a medical professional to slowly lower your dose and wean yourself off of it. 

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Taking Paxil For Anxiety

Dealing with an anxiety disorder can affect your daily life. Because of this, it is important to take steps to manage your condition. One way to do just that? Through medication, like Paxil, which in addition to being an antidepressant can be used to treat anxiety disorders.

If you’d like to consider taking paroxetine, you’ll want to speak with a mental health provider to see if it’s a good fit for you. Hers offers online consultations for mental health and medical advice about conditions like anxiety, bipolar disorder, major depression and more. Paxil may be right for you, but it’s always important to discuss your treatment options.

10 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Facts and Statistics. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics
  2. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad
  3. Symptoms, Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad/symptoms
  4. What are the five types of anxiety disorders? U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/answers/mental-health-and-substance-abuse/what-are-the-five-major-types-of-anxiety-disorders/index.html
  5. Paroextine. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Paroxetine-(Paxil)
  6. Commonly Prescribed Antidepressants and How They Work. Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://magazine.medlineplus.gov/article/commonly-prescribed-antidepressants-and-how-they-work
  7. Chu, A., Wadhwa, R., (2021, May 10). Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. Stat Pearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554406/
  8. Paroextine. Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a698032.html
  9. Pollack, M H., Zaninelli, R., Goddard, A., et al., (2001). Paroxetine in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder: results of a placebo-controlled, flexible-dosage trial. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11411817/
  10. Stein, M., Liebowitz, M., Lydriard, B., et al., (1998). Paroxetine Treatment of Generalized Social Phobia (Social Anxiety Disorder). JAMA. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/187901

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

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