FAQs About Effexor for Panic Disorder

Antidepressants for Panic Disorder

Effexor antidepressant drug molecule
Effexor antidepressant drug molecule. LAGUNA DESIGN / Getty Images

Many panic disorder sufferers choose to take a prescribed medication to help in managing anxiety-related symptoms. Antidepressants are frequently prescribed to assist in the treatment of panic disorder. Effexor (venlafaxine) is a type of antidepressant that is often prescribed to treat panic disorder symptoms.

What is Effexor?

Effexor is the trademark name for the medication venlafaxine, which belongs to a class of antidepressants known as serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

The popularity of SNRIs has grown, as they have been found to be safe and effective with fewer side effects than some of the other classes of antidepressants.

SNRIs were initially used to treat the symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and dysthymic disorder. It was later found that these medications can effectively treat anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

These medications have also been found to help in managing other mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders. Additionally, SNRIs can help with pain symptoms associated with certain medical conditions like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

How Does Effexor Treat Panic Disorder?

There are hundreds of neurotransmitters in the human brain. These naturally occurring chemical messengers are responsible for guiding important communication throughout the brain.

Neurotransmitters are also in charge of various bodily functions, such as sleep, mood, and energy levels. It is believed that mood and anxiety disorders occur when these chemical messengers become imbalanced.

Effexor works to bring balance back to two neurotransmitters: serotonin and norepinephrine.

Both have been shown to have a connection to panic disorder, as these neurotransmitters impact certain functions and cognitions associated with panic disorder. Serotonin regulates mood and sleep, while norepinephrine is linked to the fight-or-flight response or the way in which one reacts to stress and anxiety.

Effexor prevents a person’s brain cells from rapidly absorbing serotonin and norepinephrine. This allows these neurotransmitters to stabilize, which can lead to reduced anxiety, improved mood, and decreased severity of panic attacks. 

What are the Side Effects of Effexor?

Like any prescribed medication, Effexor has the potential for side effects. These side effects often vary from person-to-person, with the most common including:

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

When taking Effexor, it is not uncommon to experience some of these side effects that eventually subside over time.

It is best to consult your doctor if side effects persist or become unmanageable. As with any medication, there is always a risk for experiencing a dangerous drug allergy when prescribed Effexor. Immediately contact your prescribing doctor or pharmacy if you are showing symptoms of an allergic drug interaction, such as difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, mouth, or tongue, choking sensations, rash, or hives.

How Soon Can I Expect Effexor to Work?

Effexor will not have immediate results for improving your symptoms. However, some users have experienced progress within days or weeks of taking Effexor. More typically, the full effect of Effexor will not be noticed until about several months of use. It is important to allow Effexor to have the time it needs to help stabilize your neurotransmitters before you decide whether or not it is working.

Are There Any Precautions to Taking Effexor?

Black Box Warning. The Food and Drug Admiration (FDA) issued what’s known as a “Black Box Warning” for SNRIs and other antidepressant medications. This warning indicated that those taking this medication can be at increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. These adverse side effects are especially concerning for adolescents and young adults who are taking these medications. Given the greater risk for this population, prescribing doctors must be especially cautious when prescribing Effexor to adolescents and young adults, monitoring for worsening symptoms, mood, or suicidal ideation.

Alcohol Consumption. Consuming alcohol while taking Effexor may increase the toxicity of this medication. This may impact the effectiveness of Effexor.

Pregnancy and Nursing. Effexor may be delivered to an unborn baby during pregnancy or through breastfeeding. Your doctor will be able to address your options if you are pregnant or nursing.

Older Adults. Older Adults are at greater risk for experiencing the side effects of Effexor. This population should consult their prescribing doctor about the risks associated with taking Effexor.

Note: The information provided here is meant to be an overview of the use of Effexor for panic disorder. The general information here 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 Effexor prescription.


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. 

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