Using Paxil for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Stressed woman rubbing her forehead at laptop

JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images

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 that keeping 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 their 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 their 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

Get our printable guide to help you ask the right questions at your next doctor's appointment.

Mind Doc Guide

What You Need to Know About Paxil

As with any medication you take, be aware of how and when to take Paxil. If you have any questions or concerns, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. It's important to know that:

  • You can take Paxil 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.
  • You should 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.
  • You should check with your doctor or pharmacist about potential interactions with other medications.
  • Paxil is not approved for use by children.

Potential Side Effects of Paxil

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.

A Word From Verywell

If you have been prescribed Paxil for generalized anxiety disorder, it's important to follow your doctor's instructions. Be sure to communicate any issues that arise (such as side effects) so that they can be dealt with swiftly.

Was this page helpful?
4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Paroxetine (marketed as Paxil) Information. Updated July 17, 2015.

  2. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). 2013.

  3. National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety disorders. Updated July 2018.

  4. Cascade E, Kalali AH, Kennedy SH. Real-world data on SSRI antidepressant side effects. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2009;6(2):16-18.

Additional Reading
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness and College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists. Paroxetine (Paxil). Updated February 2020.