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Paroxetine (Paxil) 101: The Basics of This Antidepressant Drug

Depression can be a frightening thing — both to you and the people who love you the most. You don’t feel like yourself and you don’t act like yourself, and sometimes it can be difficult to even get yourself out of bed. 

At its worst, depression can make life feel hopeless. 

Despite how it makes you feel — utterly alone — depression may be more common than you think. As much as 6.7 percent of the U.S. population has major depressive disorder — just one type of depression — according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Many of them, no doubt, are receiving help for their affliction. And so can you.

Paroxetine is just one solution available to people diagnosed with depression, anxiety and a number of other mental health conditions. 

Read on to learn what you should know before talking with your healthcare provider  about this medical option. 

What Is Paroxetine? 

Paroxetine — also known under the brand name Paxil — is an antidepressant drug in the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class of medications, approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat several mental health conditions in men, including: major depressive disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder and panic disorder.

It’s sometimes prescribed off-label to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder in children and adolescents, dysthymia, separation anxiety, body dysmorphic disorder, malignancy related pruritus and premature ejaculation.

It comes in tablets, liquids, long-acting tablets and capsules, and is obtained with a prescription.  

What are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors? 

SSRIs work by influencing how much of the neurotransmitter serotonin is available in your brain. By blocking the reabsorption (or reuptake) of serotonin, there is more of it available. This is good for people with mental health afflictions such as depression and anxiety, as serotonin plays an important role in mood regulation. It’s believed serotonin imbalances or deficiencies can cause mood problems, so SSRIs target this chemical to combat them. 

In addition to paroxetine (Paxil®), other SSRIs approved by the FDA include: sertraline (Zoloft®), fluoxetine (Prozac®), escitalopram (Lexapro®) and citalopram (Celexa®). 

Is Paroxetine Right For You? 

Paroxetine may be right for you if you’ve been diagnosed with one of the following conditions: 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder 
  • Major depressive disorder 
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder 
  • Panic disorder 
  • Social anxiety disorder

However, if you have not yet received a diagnosis, that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have a mental health condition that could be helped by paroxetine. 

The first step in knowing whether any prescription drug is right for you is talking with a healthcare professional and getting sound medical advice. 

Because this medication is approved for the treatment of multiple mental health disorders, the many potential symptoms are too many to list. That said, here are some of the symptoms of the above listed diagnoses that could be aided by paroxetine: 

  • Severe depression and feelings of hopelessness 
  • Sudden attacks of extreme fear and worry, also known as panic attacks
  • Fear of interacting with others 
  • Obsessive thoughts and behaviors that won’t go away
  • Anxiety or excessive worry that doesn’t go away 
  • Disturbing psychological experiences related to a traumatic experience

Paroxetine Side Effects

There are numerous prescription drugs — and even some supplements such as St. John’s Wort — that can interact negatively with paroxetine. 

Some of these interactions can even be life threatening. For this reason, always tell your healthcare provider all of the medications you currently take. For a complete list of potential drug interactions, view the Paxil label

The most common side effects associated with paroxetine decrease as your body becomes accustomed to the medication. They may include: 

  • Infection
  • Nausea
  • Sleepiness and yawning
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety or insomnia
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Shaking and sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth

Serious, but rare side effects warrant a conversation with your healthcare provider or a call to 911 if they represent an emergency, as they could signal a very serious complication. These may include: 

  • Increased suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • New or worsening depression or anxiety symptoms 
  • Manic behavior 
  • Dangerous risk taking
  • Hallucinations
  • Racing heart rate or high blood pressure 
  • Sweating or fever 
  • Eye pain or changes in vision
  • Trouble breathing 
  • Seizures
  • Severe allergic reaction including rash, swelling of face or tongue

It’s important to note, paroxetine is considered safe for most people, and many people obtain positive results when using the drug as prescribed. As with all drugs, though, understanding the risks is important. 

One final warning: Do not stop taking paroxetine without first informing your healthcare provider. Stopping abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, nightmares, vomiting, headaches, prickling or tingling of skin, and irritability.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.