FAQs About Cymbalta for Panic Disorder

Antidepressants for Panic Disorder

Close-up of prescription drugs
Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Prescribed medication is a common treatment option for panic disorder.  Antidepressant medications are often prescribed to help reduce the symptoms of panic disorder. Cymbalta (duloxetine) is one type of antidepressant that is frequently prescribed to panic disorder sufferers.

What is Cymbalta?

Cymbalta is a medication that belongs to a category of antidepressants called serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

Originally used to treat mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder, SNRIs were later found to be an effective treatment option for anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, specific phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), and agoraphobia.

Additionally, these medications are prescribed to treat other mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and eating disorders. SNRIs can also be effective in treating pain associated with certain medical conditions like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

SNRIs are considered a safe and effective way to treat panic disorder. They also tend to have fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants. For these reasons, SNRIs have continued to grow in popularity for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders. Aside from Cymbalta, other common SNRIS include Effexor (venlafaxine) and Pristiq (desvenlafaxine).

How Does Cymbalta Treat Panic Disorder?

Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring chemicals that are located in the brain. These chemical messengers are responsible for relaying messages throughout the brain and impact many different bodily functions. It is thought that imbalances in some of these neurotransmitters can lead to mood and anxiety disorder.

Cymbalta works to bring balance back to the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. Both of these chemical messengers are connected to panic disorder. Serotonin is involved in regulating mood and sleep and norepinephrine regulates the fight-or-flight stress response and reactions to anxiety. Cymbalta can restore balance by preventing brain cells from quickly absorbing these neurotransmitters. Through bringing equilibrium back to these neurotransmitters, Cymbalta can help alleviate anxiety, lessen panic attacks, and improve mood.

What are the Side Effects of Cymbalta?

All prescribed medication has the potential for side effects and Cymbalta is no exception. Common side effects of Cymbalta include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Sexual side-effects
  • Increased nervousness
  • Upset stomach or abdominal pain
  • Sleep disorders

You may experience some, none, or all of these side effects. Side effects also vary for different people. Typically, these side effects will subside over time as your body adjusts to taking Cymbalta.

Be certain to consult your doctor if you experience side effects that don’t seem to go away or become worse. Serious allergic drug reactions can also happen when taking Cymbalta. Contact your doctor or pharmacy immediately if you experience the side effects of vomiting, swelling of mouth, tongue, and face, rash, hives, or difficulty breathing.

How Long Will Cymbalta Take to Work?

Don’t expect Cymbalta to immediately impact your symptoms of panic disorder. You may notice improvements within the first days to weeks of taking this medication. However, it can take up to several months to fully experience the benefits of Cymbalta. You may need to give your medication some time before deciding if it is working for you.

Are There Any Precautions to Taking Cymbalta?

Black Box Warning. In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to include a warning on SNRIs and other antidepressants. Known as a black box warning, the FDA cautions that these medications can cause suicidal thoughts and actions. Teens and young adults were found to be especially at risk for these adverse side effects. Prescribing doctors must use caution and closely monitor those taking SNRIs for decline in mood and suicidal thoughts.

Alcohol Consumption. Consuming alcohol while taking Cymbalta is not recommended. Alcohol consumption runs the risk of increasing the toxicity of Cymbalta, potentially impacting its effectiveness.

Special Populations. Pregnant and nursing women should consult their doctor about taking Cymbalta while pregnant or nursing, as it is possible to pass this medication on to the child. Older adults should also discuss the pros and cons of taking Cymbalta with their prescribing doctor, as older adults are at greater risk for experiencing the side effects of Cymbalta.

Note: The information provided here is meant to be an overview of the use of Cymbalta for panic disorder. The general information presented in this article does not cover all possible scenarios, such as potential adverse side effects, precautions, and contraindications. Always consult your medical provider about any questions and/or concerns you may have about your Cymbalta prescription.

Sources:

Dell'Osso, B., Buoli, M., Baldwin, D. S., & Altamura, A. (2010). Serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) in anxiety disorders: a comprehensive review of their clinical efficacy. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, 25(1), 17-29.

Silverman, Harold M. (2012). The Pill Book. 15th ed. New York, NY: Bantam Books. 

Continue Reading