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Paxil For Depression: Is It Effective?

Katelyn Hagerty

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 10/30/2022

If you’ve suffered with depression for some time, you may be worried about getting your hopes up about treatment. This new medication prescribed by a healthcare provider — could it be the answer to your questions? Could Paxil® for depression be your solution?

It’s possible you’ve found a great treatment option in Paxil.

True, it’s hard to know until you’ve been on an antidepressant for some time whether that particular medication will help you get the depressive disorder relief you crave. 

Medications for depression often have a complex relationship with the user and their disorder. And whether a medication works or not is difficult to determine before you take it. Is Paxil effective for depression and other mood disorders?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other medical experts think so. Let’s unpack how.

Can Paxil Treat Depression?

Paxil, or paroxetine, as its generic version is known, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, also known as an SSRI

These medications are believed to treat some of the symptoms of depression by affecting your brain’s interaction with its own supply of serotonin — the neurotransmitter that helps stabilize your moods (among other things). 

Essentially, your brain makes serotonin. But it also clears the table of its serotonin levels by reabsorbing them when it thinks every neuron that needed serotonin has had enough. 

What this may mean for people with depression is that your brain is overdoing it on the clean up — and leaving your neurons still hungry for their supply of serotonin.

When an SSRI like Paxil is taken as directed, it can prevent your brain from cleaning the table, which means there’s still a supply of serotonin for your neurons to snack and graze on. 

This may, at least in part, help you combat depressive symptoms.

How Effective is Paxil at Treating Depression?

As you probably can see now, antidepressants like Paxil can also be effective in managing depression. 

And SSRIs are generally considered first-line treatments; they’re considered more effective and with considerably reduced adverse effects as compared with other types of antidepressant drugs.

Paxil in particular is approved by the FDA for the treatment of a variety of depressive disorders, including major depressive disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and postpartum depression.

But just how good is Paxil in particular as an effective antidepressant medication?

A 2008 meta-analysis looked at the results of paroxetine over placebo in 40 clinical trials and more than 3,000 patients, and paroxetine was found to be “significantly superior than placebo” in terms of treatment of symptoms.

The researchers did note, however, that a statistically significant amount of people left their respective studies because of side effects, including suicidality — which is a rare but known side effect of some antidepressant drugs, and SSRIs are no exception.

However, that didn’t stand in the way of Paxil obtaining approval from the FDA.

In an FDA clinical trial for Paxil, 566 patients who met the clinical criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) receiving long-term treatment with Paxil were observed. At the end of the 24-week trial, researchers noted a statistically significantly lower relapse rate among those who stayed on Paxil.

In fact, the FDA compiled data from many clinical trials also treating things like Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder (PD), Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and found that Paxil is, generally, statistically significantly more effective than Placebo.

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The Risks and Common Side Effects of Paxil For Depression

That said, like all antidepressants — arguably all medications — Paxil does have some side effect risks. 

The common side effects of paroxetine are also similar to other SSRIs in that any of the following may also occur:

  • Dry mouth

  • Dizziness

  • Infection

  • Decreased appetite

  • Shaking

  • Weight loss or weight gain

  • Insomnia

  • Fatigue

  • Sweating

  • Anxiety

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Reduced libido

  • Sexual function problems like ejaculation disorders

If you experience mild side effects, there’s a chance they’ll simply go away after a couple of weeks as your brain adjusts to the medication. If problems persist or if side effects are severe enough to affect your quality of life, talk to a healthcare provider about it.

At higher levels of paroxetine, you might also increase your risk of serotonin syndrome, which is a condition caused by an oversupply of serotonin. This is true of many (if not all) antidepressants that work with serotonin, of course. 

Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include things like tremors, mental status changes (like hallucinations or agitation), seizure, nausea and others. If you experience these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that Paxil can also increase bleeding risk, reduce the effectiveness of certain cancer medications, result in seizures, lead to birth defects in infants and more. 

These side effects are rare, but if you’re taking Paxil, thinking about taking Paxil or are experiencing any of the above, you should talk to your healthcare provider immediately.

Additionally, Paxil does come with a black box warning from the FDA, which notes that this medication may actually increase thoughts of suicide in some people — particularly in pediatric patients and young adults.

So, if you feel your moods getting dangerously worse, again, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Should I Take Paxil For Depression?

If you’re wondering if the above risks are a reason to avoid Paxil, that’s hardly the case. 

Paxil is still considered safe and effective as a depression treatment. Your unique circumstances, needs and limitations play an important role in deciding whether treating depression with Paxil is right for you. 

Depression and the associated mood disorders in its family can be crippling sources of physical and mental anguish for anyone if left untreated. Whether you’re the person dealing with those symptoms or you’re watching someone you love struggle, Paxil may indeed work. 

It may also not be the only piece of your depression management plan. 

Depression can be treated with a variety of medications, therapies and other practices that, together, can reduce and replace the symptoms of depression with energy, happiness and a more healthy mind.

A healthcare provider might, for instance, suggest behavioral therapy to work on the mental and emotional impacts of depression. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a system whereby a patient learns to reject and reduce depressive thoughts of worthlessness and hopelessness, and question their origin until different patterns of thought emerge.

Medication like an SSRI (or monoamine oxidase inhibitor, tricyclic antidepressant or other) can be incredibly beneficial for your mental health, especially when paired with some form of therapy — the combination is often recommended. 

Your healthcare provider may also recommend certain lifestyle changes that include getting more exercise, getting better rest and even changing up certain aspects of your diet.

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Treating Depression with Paxil: What You Really Should Know

Antidepressants can help people deal with a laundry list of mental health issues and psychiatric disorder types, including social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and other anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and more. 

They’re truly incredible life-changers for many people, and Paxil might be a life-changer for you.

Whether a daily dose of paroxetine is the right medication for your needs is ultimately going to be something that you discuss with a healthcare professional, who will help you get a diagnosis of your depressive disorder and figure out the right treatment for you. 

They can also help you sort out ongoing issues and discuss that depressive episode or those panic attacks that have you looking for help in the first place.

If you’re not sure where to find one, consider working with us for medical advice! Our online therapy platform matches you with qualified mental health professionals, so you can find the right match for your needs and get the help you want now, from the comfort of your own home. 

Whether it’s with us or elsewhere, talk to someone today to get a portrait of your treatment options. Paxil might be in the picture, but your mental health status should always be in focus.

7 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. Shrestha P, Fariba KA, Abdijadid S. Paroxetine. Updated 2022 Jul 19. In: StatPearls Internet. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526022/.
  2. Barbui C, Furukawa TA, Cipriani A. Effectiveness of paroxetine in the treatment of acute major depression in adults: a systematic re-examination of published and unpublished data from randomized trials. CMAJ. 2008 Jan 29;178(3):296-305. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.070693. PMID: 18227449; PMCID: PMC2211353. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2211353/.
  3. Serotonin: What is it, Function & Levels. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2022, from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22572-serotonin
  4. Serotonin syndrome: What it is, causes, symptoms & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17687-serotonin-syndrome.
  5. Chand SP, Arif H. Depression. Updated 2022 Jul 18. In: StatPearls Internet. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430847/.
  6. FDA. (n.d.). Highlights of Prescribing Information: Paxil. Accessdata. Retrieved September 7, 2022, from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2021/020031s012,020710s047lbl.pdf.
  7. Serotonin Syndrome: What It Is, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment. (2022, March 24). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17687-serotonin-syndrome

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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