Using Paxil for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

How Paxil Works, Side Effects and Other Information

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In the spring of 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug Paxil for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Paxil (paroxetine) is an antidepressant medication 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 social anxiety disorder (SAD) in 1999.

It is also prescribed for treatment of panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

How Paxil Works

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, travel across the space 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, often worrying 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, but this knowledge does not reduce the anxiety.They may report being unable to relax and they 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, or they might feel as though they have a lump in the throat.

Generalized anxiety disorder is usually treated with psychotherapy and/or medication. 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.

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 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.

Other Information Regarding 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 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 move you up 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.


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

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