Using Paxil for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

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Paxil (paroxetine) is an antidepressant medication approved for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and other anxiety disorders. It is in the same class as Prozac and Zoloft. Like other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), it was developed as a treatment for depression.

Paxil was approved for the treatment of GAD in 2001 and social anxiety disorder (SAD) in 1999. It is also a prescribed treatment for panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

How Does Paxil Work?

The precise mechanism responsible for the antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects of drugs like Paxil is still not completely understood. They are classified as SSRIs because they prevent the re-uptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain and nervous system.

Nerve impulses are transmitted chemically between neurons in the nervous system. Neurotransmitters like serotonin are produced by one neuron. They travel between the cells and are deposited on the second neuron. It is theorized by some that keeping the serotonin around longer results in relief of depression.

What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Unlike phobias where a person has a fear of a certain object or situation, generalized anxiety disorder produces free-floating anxiety that is not attached to a single source.

People with GAD develop chronic and exaggerated worry and tension, even though nothing seems to provoke it. Those with this disorder are always anticipating disaster. They often worry excessively about health, money, family, or work. Just the thought of getting through the day may provoke anxiety.

Many people with GAD realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. This knowledge does not reduce the anxiety. They may report being unable to relax and often have trouble falling or staying asleep.

Their worries are usually accompanied by physical symptoms, especially trembling, twitching, muscle tension, headaches, irritability, sweating, or hot flashes. They may feel lightheaded, out of breath, nauseated or have to go to the bathroom frequently. They might also feel as though they have a lump in the throat.

Generalized anxiety disorder is usually treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two. It can take some time to figure out the best combination for you, so be patient and keep your doctor informed about what is and isn't working for you.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Discussion Guide

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Potential Side Effects

Common side effects of Paxil are nervousness, sleep difficulties (either too much or too little), restlessness, fatigue, dry mouth, nausea, headache, sweating, diarrhea, and sexual problems. Typically, these side effects will go away within a couple of weeks of taking the medication.

Rare side effects include bleeding, teeth grinding, and low sodium blood levels. Serious side effects are seizure and serotonin syndrome, which happens when there is too much serotonin in the body and can lead to death.

What You Need to Know About Paxil

  • Paxil can be taken with or without food at any time of the day.
  • If you miss a dose, take it when you remember, unless it's close to the time to take it again. Don't double your dose.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs while taking Paxil as they may decrease the benefits.
  • Your doctor will probably start you on a low dose to begin with and increase it if needed.
  • Paxil is safe and effective when taken as directed. There are no known risks from long-term use.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist about potential interactions with other medications.
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Article Sources

  • College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists, Paroxetine (Paxil). National Alliance on Mental Illness. 2013.