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Paxil Side Effects, Uses, and Risks

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  • Paxil is used to treat anxiety and certain mood disorders
  • Doctors disagree about how addictive it is, but some patience experience withdrawal symptoms
  • To reduce Paxil side effects, you should only take Paxil as prescribed by a doctor

If you experience anxiety symptoms, your doctor may prescribe medication to help. Paxil is commonly used for the treatment of anxiety and certain other conditions. If you are wondering about Paxil side effects, and whether the drug is associated with any specific risks, here’s what you need to know.

What Is Paxil?

Paxil (paroxetine) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that is commonly prescribed to treat depression, anxiety, panic disorders, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It affects chemicals in the brain, making serotonin – a “feel-good” neurotransmitter – more available.

When a person takes Paxil, the increase in serotonin levels can improve mood. This may alleviate symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, and a range of other disorders.

Generally, once a person starts taking Paxil, it can take up to four weeks before symptoms improve. Essentially, it has to “build up” in a person’s system, ensuring enough serotonin becomes available to produce noticeable results.

Paxil Side Effects

Nearly all medications have at least a few potential side effects. Even when taken as prescribed, a person using Paxil may experience:

  • Digestive issues (belching, sour stomach, heartburn)
  • Congestion
  • Sleepiness
  • Problems urinating
  • Decreased sex drive

It is also possible to be allergic to Paxil. If you experience trouble breathing, swelling of the lips or tongue, vomiting, rash, hives, tightness in the chest, or other symptoms of a severe reaction, get medical assistance immediately. New research also suggests that long-term Paxil use may lead to dementia.

Paxil & Addiction Treatment

At times, doctors may prescribe Paxil to individuals recovering from addiction. Since the medication can combat symptoms of depression and anxiety, it may be beneficial to those who are struggling with their mental health.

However, doctors will only prescribe the treatment in a formal addiction treatment program. A medical professional might also prescribe the drug to supplement other treatment for mental health issues, such cognitive behavioral therapy sessions. The goal is to help those with co-occurring mental health diagnoses make forward progress.

Limiting the use of Paxil to a medically supervised environment reduces the odds of misuse and allows for intense monitoring. If Paxil isn’t producing a benefit, a doctor can intervene quickly.

As with all comprehensive addiction treatment approaches, the goal is sustained recovery. If Paxil factors into that picture, then it may be prescribed. However, Paxil isn’t right for everyone, so many people move toward recovery without it.


Have questions about addiction to prescription medication?
Call us at 866-278-6311 to speak with a recovery specialist.


Is Paxil Addictive?

There is some debate regarding whether Paxil is addictive. It is classified as not habit-forming, and some believe that physical dependence isn’t possible.

However, not all doctors agree. For example, a psychological addiction could occur in those who misuse Paxil, including taking larger doses than prescribed and using Paxil while abusing other drugs or alcohol.

Additionally, some patients who use Paxil experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the medication. These symptoms could include:

  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Depression or increased feelings of sadness
  • Hallucinations
  • Vivid dreams
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Increased sweating
  • Digestive distress
  • Appetite changes
  • Vision changes

Generally, patients taking Paxil should only lower their dose or stop taking the medication under the direct guidance of a doctor. That way, should any withdrawal-like symptoms arise, they can be properly assessed and managed.

Alternative Anxiety Treatments

Paxil isn’t the only option for treating anxiety. There are other medications to avoid Paxil side effects, as well as approaches that don’t involve prescriptions.

When it comes to pharmaceutical treatments, Lexapro and Zoloft are potential alternatives. Wellbutrin and Cymbalta – which are alternatives to the SSRI drug class – may also be viable options for certain patients.

Additionally, nonprescription approaches could yield positive results. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often beneficial. Exercise, meditation, and certain other activities could also have an impact on anxiety symptoms.

If you’re struggling with anxiety, it’s always wise to work with a doctor. They can help you find options that best suit your unique needs.

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Written By: Sprout Editorial Team

The Sprout Health Group editorial team is passionate about addiction treatment, recovery and mental health issues. Every article is expert-reviewed.