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Paxil Withdrawal (paroxetine), Side Effects, Addiction and Treatment

Despite overwhelming evidence, doctors tend to dismiss symptoms of Paxil withdrawal.

Antidepressants like Paxil can inflict an extraordinary backbite that tends to get dismissed or minimized for certain persons in their very real suffering.  Alternative to Meds Center has been focused on Paxil withdrawal for over 15 years, offering programs to help a person safely get off Paxil. 

Do you feel misunderstood?
So were we.

paxil withdrawal
Our published evidence clearly demonstrates the success of our clients. Many ATMC staff have personal experience with coming off Paxil and similar drugs. This is why we feel genuinely called to assist others. We have found that each person needs individualized methods of support. Testing is invaluable, as it reveals neurotoxicity and deficiencies. Assessments demonstrate where lifestyle or other changes may benefit, as well as specific dietary and supplementation programs. Testing also shows the presence of genetic factors that act as contributors to symptoms. 
This video details the story of a woman who has lost the ability to function entirely. She explains how she got her life back from not only antidepressants but benzodiazepines as well. Many people say “no one can be as bad as me.” We are not the typical spin-dry rehab. You will easily see that ATMC takes on the worst of the worst, and is truly creating miracles.
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Learning About Paxil Withdrawal

get informed Paxil withdrawalWe recommend learning as much as possible about this medication, its side effects, and other information.

Paxil is an antidepressant belonging to the SSRI class of prescription drugs. It is used in treating various mood disorders as recommended by the APA.

Strategies used at the center for how to get off Paxil comfortably are important subjects that will be discussed further below.


SSRI drugs, such as Paxil or its generic drug name, paroxetine, have become some of the most widely prescribed medications both in the US and worldwide. Market research shows that what has been called the “depression drug market” is set to surge yet again, from $14 billion in 2014 to well over $16 billion in 2020 in the US alone.

SPECIAL CAUTIONARY NOTE:  The DSM V has recently revised and corrected errors in entries for several disorders for which Paxil, et. al, may not always have been accurately indicated or prescribed. The specific criteria for certain of these conditions have been recently corrected or revised, for which SSRI’s have been one of the medications routinely prescribed. If you have questions about your prescription or your diagnosis, be sure to ask your primary caregiver or physician for more information. More information on this is given below under the section entitled “Treatment.” 1

Seeking Natural Mental Health Treatments 

alternative natural medicineFor many reasons, it behooves anyone searching for remedies for depression, anxiety, or other undesired symptoms to be as diligent as possible in selecting treatments that are the least harmful, and optimally, non-addictive. Perhaps the best way is to search out information from a wide variety of sources, ask questions, and satisfy all questions before embarking on a particular course of treatment. At Alternative to Meds Center, we offer treatments that address natural mental health goals, without the use of prescription medications. We believe a person does not have to put at risk of Paxil addiction as the only route of treatment to address symptoms of mental unease.

In addition, if one is already tangled up as dependence on Paxil or similar drugs, there are options at Alternative to Meds Center that are safe and comfortable that provide Paxil withdrawal help AND are designed to ultimately address natural mental health goals without prescription drugs.

You may be presently looking for the very first time for natural mental health treatments, or perhaps seeking ways to safely walk back from treatments that did not produce the desired results. There may be unanswered questions as to why a condition like depression got worse on prescription drug treatment, or why other symptoms began to present.

The information offered here may provide some starting points for your health quest. 

Paxil Withdrawal

At ATMC I was always supported. The staff was great at providing opportunities for me to work towards stability. What helped me here was always keeping a positive outlook and the constant encouragement and reminders to keep faith in myself.



What is Paxil (paroxetine) used for?

Paxil (paroxetine) is an antidepressant drug, used in the treatment of many conditions, some of which are explained in some detail below. Since its approval some decades ago, this SSRI antidepressant drug has received additional FDA approval for treating multiple conditions or disorders. 

What is Paxil Prescribed For? 

  • Panic Disorder*
  • OCD
  • MDD
  • PTSD
  • GAD
  • SAD (seasonal affective disorder)
  • SAD (social anxiety disorder)

*Dannon, Lowengrub, and Kotler comment on the APA’s recommendation for temporary pharmacological treatment (one year) in their 2004 paper on treating panic disorder with paroxetine. 

ParanoiaPanic Disorder:  a condition that affects twice as many women as men, most often beginning in the teen years or early twenties, although panic attacks can occur in adult and older populations as well. Panic disorder is characterized by recurring episodes called panic attacks. During a panic attack, a person may experience a rapid or pounding heartbeat, a choking sensation, fear of dying, fear of losing control, a breathless sensation, and chest pain. High levels of anxiety develop and linger, because of not knowing when or where another attack may occur.

OCD ruminating negative thoughtsOCD:  obsessive-compulsive disorder. This condition is diagnosed where a person experiences or carries out repeating thoughts, emotions, or actions, which are beyond their ability to control without significant consequences to the person’s well-being. Some persons describe this as being haunted by thoughts that won’t go away. A nagging compulsion to repeatedly check the locks will produce anxiety or distress if the action is not carried out. Other examples are compulsive excessive hand-washing for fear of germs, counting things like stairs or objects for no apparent reason except to reduce the anxiety that is felt if the counting is not carried out, checking and re-checking the stove was shut off, yet still doubting one did it correctly, etc.

paxil side effectsMDD:  major depressive disorder, described as a period of time where a person suffers low mood, lethargy, and other symptoms. When it lasts for 2 years or more it is called PDD 6 or persistent depressive disorder. 

PTSD:  post-traumatic stress disorder, usually diagnosed after exposure to traumatic events has left lingering unwanted symptoms such as hypersensitivity to external stimuli, recurring vivid nightmares, flashbacks, fears, etc.

GAD:  generalized anxiety disorder, diagnosed where an unusually exaggerated or severe sense of anxiety and tension has been suffered for six months or more, yet can not be reasonably accounted for.

SAD:  Social Anxiety Disorder resembles extreme shyness or unease, awkwardness, or fear of being negatively perceived by others in social situations. 3  Symptoms include reclusiveness, blushing excessively, nervousness about meeting or interacting with people, etc. The condition is reportedly the third most often diagnosed condition in psychiatric practice. Paxil is often prescribed to persons who are diagnosed with “social anxiety,” including those addicted to alcohol. Taking two (or multiple) agents that affect the CNS simultaneously could be disastrous. The Norwegian University of Science and Technology did a study on social anxiety disorder treatments and found non-drug-based treatment most effective.2   

SAD:  Seasonal affective disorder is described as low mood or sadness that begins and ends with a particular season. Some linking factors have been established, such as lack of outdoor activity or decreased hours of sunshine, lack of vitamin D, reduced exercise, inadequate diet, and other environmental factors. The condition is most prevalent in geographic areas that are far north or south of the equator. Light Therapy is considered one of the most effective treatments for this set of symptoms. Despite the known causes of seasonal affective disorder, sometimes aggressive and invasive treatments such as electric shock to induce seizures, or neurotoxic medications that can damage the brain are prescribed but the APA recommends such treatment be temporary.3, 6

Paxil (paroxetine) Alternative Names and Slang

Paroxetine, the generic name for Paxil, is also sold under various trade names such as Pexeva, Aropax, Seroxat, Sereupin, Brisdelle.

Paxil is not known as a popularized street drug. However, illegal labs and diversion could be possible sources that could end up on the street. Many prescription drugs have been found when analyzing illicit concoctions, designer type drugs, drugs sold as “ecstasy,” etc.

Paxil Side Effects

paroxetine side effectsNot every person experiences exactly the same set of side effects, nor does each person experience the same intensity of symptoms. However, a significant percentage of those taking Paxil do come to the decision to stop taking Paxil due to, at least in part, the side effects that become problematic. Before beginning a prescription of Paxil (paroxetine) it would be advisable to discuss the most common and other Paxil side effects with your prescribing physician. Here are some important points to consider in regards to Paxil side effects that could be encountered:

BREAST CANCER:  There has been much reporting on the adverse effects associated with Paxil. Two Canadian studies showed a significant rise in breast cancer and also an increased risk of dying from breast cancer in women who took Paxil over one four-year study, and a second five-year study. The ways in which paroxetine interacted with certain genetic factors, and how it interacted with certain cancer drugs was also found to be significant in these findings.4

BIRTH DEFECTS:  Prolonged QT interval in infants is linked to various congenital heart defects in newborns whose mothers took Paxil during the first trimester of pregnancy. This results in malformed ventricular tissue, and other defects. If taken during later stages of pregnancy, Paxil is linked to neonatal withdrawal syndrome in the infant. Such symptoms present as respiratory impairment, lethargy, jitteriness, poor feeding, etc.4

SUICIDALITY:  Paxil is not prescribed to the pediatric population due to a doubling of suicidality in trials.

SEROTONIN SYNDROME:  Paxil contains one of the most aggressive and potent serotonergic agents of all the drugs in its class. When too much serotonin becomes activated in the body, this can result in a life-threatening reaction called serotonin syndrome. Symptoms to watch for are sudden fever, depressed respiration, confusion, dilated pupils, rash, difficulty speaking or thinking clearly, hallucinations, muscle rigidity, etc. Immediate medical attention, by ambulance, is recommended for the best chance of survival, to the closest medical facility or ICU.

OTHER SIDE EFFECTS:  There is a very wide range of side effects which include adverse effects on male fertility, cognitive impairment in the elderly, sexual side effects, weight gain, aggression, akathisia in children, and adolescents.

SSRI drugs like Paxil may have many adverse reactions. Be sure to ask your primary caregiver if you are experiencing unusual physical or mental changes while taking Paxil which makes you feel uncomfortable. Be sure to let your doctor know if you are or are planning to become pregnant, and whether you have a family history of breast cancer while considering and discussing starting a prescription of Paxil or any psychiatric medication.

Paxil Withdrawal Symptoms – *Paroxetine is the most aggressive of all SSRIs

Paxil Withdrawal Symptoms* include:

  • Brain zaps
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Thoughts of harming self
  • Tremors
  • Rebound depression
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Panic attacks
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Vivid dreams
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Paresthesia (tingling/prickling sensation on the skin)
  • Nightmares

*Note:  Paxil is the most aggressive of all SSRIs with a 21-hour half-life, meaning that Paxil withdrawal symptoms can onset or escalate if abruptly discontinued, according to a 2001 review by Bourin, Chue, and Guillon.

Discontinuing/Quitting Paxil (paroxetine)

paxil side effectsThe most common reason people give for wanting Paxil withdrawal treatment is overwhelming side effects. At the beginning of a treatment phase, certain side effects might be temporarily acceptable, such as sexual side effects or headaches. But there commonly comes a time when it becomes decidedly undesirable to continue taking Paxil, as the negative effects begin to outweigh any benefits.

However, as stated above, withdrawal from the drug may introduce its own set of adverse feelings and reactions which can be severe.

Please be careful to never abruptly stop taking Paxil, or try to taper the drug too quickly. The safest approach is to seek medical guidance and direction for a slow cessation with adequate support as you go through the process of Paxil withdrawal.

Paxil Alternative Therapies

natural alternativesAlternative to Meds Center has developed an arsenal of Paxil alternative treatments it uses to provide safe and effective treatments for natural mental health.

Along with helping clients complete their Paxil taper program, other supporting segments of the programs address specific health issues relating to sleep, mood, energy level, and much more. Stopping Paxil safely starts the ball rolling, and there is much more that can be improved while in the program. Treatments for natural mental health help during and after Paxil withdrawal. 

Paxil (paroxetine) FAQs

The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about Paxil (paroxetine) which may help you as you gather the information you need. Please request further information if your questions are not answered adequately here.

Can you OD on paroxetine?

Yes, like all drugs, an SSRI can be deadly if taken in too great a quantity, and also if mixed with other drugs or alcohol because of their synergistic effects. Because of the suicide risk associated with SSRI drugs, an overdose is of special concern where suicidality emerges or seems to intensify during treatment. If a person does overdose on Paxil, swift medical attention is the best chance for recovery. 

How long does it take to get over Paxil withdrawal?

With a proper regimen of adjunctive therapies, slow tapering is the best way to go. One thing that might lengthen the process is trying to withdraw too fast. This is especially true after long-term use. It is possible to recover from Paxil withdrawal with proper protocols, guidance, and adequate support in place. But the pace of the withdrawal must be tolerable, not causing severe reactions. At Alternative to Meds Center, clients in our program are individually programmed for the best and most comfortable withdrawal experience possible and treatment plans are designed for their unique situation.

Is Paxil Addictive?

We can imagine that someone going through alcohol withdrawal may be “addicted” because they do not want to suffer the headaches, anxiety, and other symptoms that manifest from withdrawal, and so, therefore, continue using alcohol. The same could be said about heroin. Realistically, there are many known uncomfortable side effects of Paxil withdrawal. These show up when a person is stopping Paxil, and their severity may deter a person from being able to persist, manifesting what arguably looks and feels like Paxil addiction.

Perhaps a person was taking an antidepressant but originally had an undiagnosed thyroid problem. After correcting the medical contributor (thyroid condition) the person may still be suffering from painful Paxil withdrawal. So the person may elect to continue taking Paxil which is medically unnecessary, but the person cannot tolerate such painful withdrawals. if someone continues using the antidepressant despite a demonstrable negative effect on the quality of life, we could call that Paxil addiction or Paxil-dependent.

Based upon the number of patients at Alternative to Meds Center who have successfully overcome these withdrawal side effects and who came out the other side with a higher quality of life, it would be reasonable to conclude that there is likely a fairly large population of Paxil users that would define themselves as addicted, but who would undeniably choose a different path if they had the proper help. Paxil addiction or dependence can be successfully overcome.

Will I Get Brain Zaps if I Stop Taking Paxil?

brain zapsBrain zaps are reportedly a problem that is not uncommon when a person is stopping Paxil, especially if done too abruptly and without nutritional and other support. Brain zaps feel like a jolt of electricity, resulting in a feeling of electric shock through the head and sometimes neck.5 The phenomena can be painful and distressing in the extreme, especially if it goes on for a long time or repeatedly. This startling phenomenon can produce a level of anxiety and discomfort that can be hard to tolerate, and sometimes even occurs during a Paxil taper, at what seems like a slow pace. Be sure to speak to your caregiver if you are experiencing brain zaps.

You can also request more information from Alternative to Meds Center if you find yourself struggling with this situation, or more information is needed on exactly how to get off Paxil safely and comfortably.

The Alternative to Meds Treatment for Paxil Addiction, Abuse, and Withdrawal

SSRI medications can produce significant negative impacts on health. The Alternative to Meds Center treatment focuses on attaining mental health naturally and need not be confused with addiction programs which may be strongly aligned with morality or philosophical teaching. Thankfully, there are multitudes of effective, easy to tolerate, physical therapies and procedures which we have found to be profoundly useful in making Paxil withdrawal easier and recovery comfortable and gentle.

Dealing with the challenges of Paxil cessation and other factors relating to getting off Paxil while health, in general, is compromised, may suggest that inpatient care would provide the safest, most effective, and most comfortable treatment choice. This is not an uncommon situation and Alternative to Meds Center can help.

In-Patient Paxil Withdrawal 

As mentioned earlier, DSM revisions had to do with diagnosing psychiatric disorders. A distinct change was pointing out the importance of discerning whether a set of symptoms is caused by a physical or medical condition. Physical causation here can include ingesting a street drug, leading to mental unease that was drug-induced, rather than “a mental illness.”

Medical causation might also include low sodium. This is profoundly important information for caregivers and physicians so that a patient can request that their primary caregiver or physician rule out such causes of symptoms before mechanically diagnosing a psychiatric illness and prescribing drugs or ECT or other seizure-inducing treatments.  

paxil withdrawalThese methodologies used in our treatment facility avoid the pitfalls of electrical zapping or drug treatments. For example, the practice of using diagnostic lab testing is one of the most helpful features of our withdrawal program. Where deficiencies exist in vitamins, i.e., vitamin D or minerals, the lack of exercise, or the presence of neurotoxins, these can be corrected directly with documented effectiveness. One process we offer is called holistic neurotransmitter replacement therapy. This is where we support the normal biophysical synthesis of neurotransmitters using targeted nutrition, supplementation, cleansing, and other methods, all without the use of drugs.

Even some genetic factors, if tested for and discovered, can be mitigated through nutrition and supplementation to smooth out the withdrawal process. Our goal is to enable those recovering after medication withdrawal to regain natural mental health. Prescription drugs typically cannot fix but only mask the problem temporarily. We have much more information we can share with you on request on the Alternative to Meds Center programs that use non-harmful and drug-free therapies, safe Paxil withdrawal programs, and methods designed for achieving mental health naturally.

1. DSM V Updates, Psychiatry Online [Internet]  2016 Sept [cited 2020 Nov 2]

2. Nordahl H et al., ” A cure for social anxiety disorders.”  Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Science Daily [Internet[ 2016 Dec 16   [cited 2020 Nov 19]

3. Melrose S, “Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches.” Depression Research and Treatment 2015 Nov 25 [Internet] PubMed ID 26688752 [cited 2020 Nov 2] 

4. Nevels R, Gontkovsky S, Williams B, “Paroxetine – The Antidepressant From Hell?” Psychopharmacology Journal  [INTERNET] 2016 Mar 1 [cited 2020 Nov 2]

5. Papp A, Onton J, “Brain Zaps: An Underappreciated Symptom of Antidepressant Discontinuation.” Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2018 Dec 20 [Internet] PubMed ID 30605268 [cited 2020 Nov 2]

6. NIMH, “Depression Overview” Information portal [Internet] 2018 Feb [cited 2020 Nov 2]

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. John Motl, M.D.

Dr. Motl is currently certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry, and Board eligible in Neurology and licensed in the state of Arizona.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated from Creighton University School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine.  Dr. Motl has studied Medical Acupuncture at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine and at U.C.L.A.

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