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How Effective Is Paxil?

This entry was posted in Antidepressant and tagged , on by .
Medically Reviewed Fact Checked

Last Updated on April 18, 2024 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Many people struggle with mental health conditions, and due to individual variances in biochemistry, there is no single solution or effective treatment to any given person’s mental health diagnosis. Two people diagnosed with the same disorder or condition may respond very differently to the same treatment. One of the most commonly prescribed treatments for depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental health conditions is Paxil, a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI).

Did Paxil become an Imperfect Solution?
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Are Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac the Same Medication?

paxil-caused depressionPaxil (paroxetine) is a relatively new SSRI that aims to treat these conditions more effectively than other SSRIs currently on the market. It’s vital to understand how Paxil works 2 and what to expect if you decide to take it. We’re going to explore some of the most common questions related to Paxil and how it compares to other SSRIs and alternative mental health treatments.

SSRIs like Prozac and Zoloft have been widely available for years, but many people have reported disruptive side effects 1 from taking these medications. One of the most pressing concerns regarding SSRIs and their suitability to treat depression is the fact that some of these medications are reported to enhance suicidal ideation and suicidal tendencies. When it comes to Paxil, this SSRI does not seem to stand out from the current SSRI crowd much. Although Paxil is reported to diminish suicidal impulses in some patients, it has also been reported to increase suicidal impulses in others.

Ultimately, Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac are similar 3 in many ways with a few key differences. Paxil and Zoloft also have similar half-lives, making cessation of these drugs more complex than it is to stop taking Prozac. Additionally, Zoloft typically has a more stimulating effect than Prozac or Paxil.

Is Paxil Anticholinergic?

Anticholinergic drugs block the action of acetylcholine. Many mental health medications like SSRIs are anticholinergic in nature. Of all the SSRIs available to qualifying patients today, paroxetine has the most profound anticholinergic properties. The side effects of anticholinergics 4 typically include dehydration, constipation, urinary retention, and dry eyes. Paxil is more likely to cause these side effects than other SSRIs.

Which Is Better to Treat Anxiety: Paxil or Xanax?

Available data indicates that while Xanax is ultimately more effective at treating anxiety 5 than Paxil, Xanax is far more addictive.6 In fact, many people with experience in the substance abuse treatment industry recognize that Xanax addiction can be just as powerful, if not more powerful, than heroin addiction. Xanax typically functions best with short-term use, whereas Paxil is a safer choice for long-term treatment.

How Do Vyvanse and Paxil Differ?

Vyvanse and Paxil 7 are diametrically opposite medications. While Paxil is primarily a sedative, Vyvanse is an amphetamine-based stimulant and mood elevator.

Common Paxil Side Effects

paxil suicidal ideationOne of the most concerning potential side effects of Paxil 8 is the potential to increase suicidal impulse. However, one of the most attractive selling points of Paxil is its alleged ability to decrease suicidal impulses. Ultimately, this side effect comes down to the individual. Anyone taking an SSRI or other medication for a mental health condition who experiences an increase in suicidal impulse should consult their doctor immediately.

Another area of concern is pregnancy. Paxil is generally not safe for pregnant women,9 as available data indicates that paroxetine can increase the chance of fetal heart defects. Additionally, if a woman is taking Paxil and quetiapine, it may not be safe for them to suddenly change medications. At ATMC, we would generally recommend the patient to cross-taper the Paxil to Prozac prior to conception, if possible. Anyone in this situation should consult their prescribing doctor before making any adjustments or replacements to their current medication regimen.

In addition to these concerns, Paxil has been reported to cause other side effects such as:
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Blurred vision

If these side effects become persistent or disruptive, anyone taking Paxil should consult their prescribing doctor as soon as possible.

What Are the Effects of Quitting Paxil Cold Turkey?

Anyone taking Paxil should know that quitting cold turkey is a bad idea. People who have been taking Paxil and suddenly stop typically experience worsened symptoms similar to the commonly reported side effects mentioned above. Additionally, more extreme withdrawal symptoms can manifest within the first few days of quitting Paxil, including intensified suicidal ideation, severe anxiety, vertigo, and flu-like symptoms. It can take up to three months for an individual to completely cleanse Paxil out of their system. The withdrawal process of quitting cold turkey is extremely unpleasant and medically unsafe.

What Are Some Alternative Treatments Besides Taking Paxil?

SSRI medications can be highly effective at treating a wide range of mental health conditions. However, these drugs can interact with other medications in unpredictable ways and cause side effects that vary in intensity from person to person. It is generally best to explore the benefits of lifestyle changes and other alternative treatments before committing to a prescription.

Individual CBT

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) 10 tends to provide the most structure when it comes to treating mental health conditions. Some people struggle with the idea of attending regular therapy, but the reality is that the efficacy of individual CBT is well documented.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Similar to CBT, dialectical behavior therapy 13 is a form of evidence-based psychotherapy intended to treat mood disorders, reduce suicidal ideation, and alter the patient’s behavior patterns related to their mental health condition.


Physical fitness 11 can have a tremendously positive effect on the mind. Someone struggling with a poor diet, lack of essential nutrients, and little-to-no physical activity can easily feel more pressured by the symptoms of a mental health condition. A healthy body makes it easier to handle mental health disorders and their symptoms. Most mental health treatment professionals will recommend their patients incorporate more physical activity into their daily routines.


Tryptophan 12 is an amino acid that metabolizes into serotonin. Many people have found this supplement to offer a robust improvement to their mental health status without imposing many of the commonly reported side effects of SSRIs.


S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) 14 functions similarly to SSRIs in that it blocks the reuptake of serotonin and can act as a mood stabilizer. However, SAMe can also cause dangerous interactions with many antidepressant medications and should not be consumed alongside such medications.

Omega Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are vital nutrients that are unfortunately lacking in the average Western diet. Two Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have been clinically proven to offer benefits to individuals struggling with mood disorders.

Vitamin D

holistic alternatives to taking paxilVitamin D is another essential nutrient that many people in the U.S. lack from their everyday diets. Sunlight is one of the best sources of vitamin D, so spending time outside can raise vitamin D levels naturally. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression, the development of seasonal affective disorder, and schizophrenia.

Testing For and Clearing Out Neurotoxins

Neurotoxins are dangerous substances that can enter the human body in surprising ways, and some neurotoxins can cause severe mental health conditions while causing little-to-no physical effects. This can cause neurotoxic exposure in some individuals to go untreated for too long. If you have any concerns about neurotoxin exposure or ingestion of any kind, arrange testing and treatment with your doctor as soon as possible.


Acupuncture has deep roots in Eastern medicine and is still widely utilized today to treat many forms of illness, including mental health disorders. Acupuncture involves lightly piercing the body in several specific pressure points, triggering endorphin release and relieving tension in the body.

Dietary Changes and Food Therapy

Developing a healthier lifestyle can do wonders for mental health. In addition to exercise, anyone seeking relief from depression, anxiety, or a mood disorder should investigate the potential that dietary counseling and food therapy can offer. Some people may consume foods they enjoy without realizing these foods are responsible for some of their most disruptive symptoms.

Nutritional Therapy Including Vitamins

Even a seemingly balanced diet can lack essential nutrients and exacerbate a mental health condition. Work with a professional nutritional therapist to determine the gaps in your diet and find out which vitamins and minerals your body may be lacking from your everyday diet.

Herbal Medicines and Herbal Supplements

People have used herbal remedies for thousands of years to treat everything from the cold and the flu to mental health problems. Herbal supplements such as St. John’s Wort, Kava, and Valerian offer a range of potential benefits to those willing to incorporate them into their daily routines. It’s vital to consult your doctor before taking any new supplement, especially if you already take any type of prescription medication.

Fresh Air and Sunshine

As seemingly simple as it may sound, spending more time outside getting fresh air and sunshine regularly can provide tremendous benefits to mental health. This runs in tandem with increasing exercise and natural vitamin D levels from sunlight.


Yoga has been around for thousands of years, and practical evidence supports its efficacy. Yoga can increase balance and flexibility, improve cardiovascular strength, and build confidence. Even if you believe you are not flexible enough to do yoga, trying beginner-level yoga routines and basic stretching can become a gateway to a healthier lifestyle with profound mental health benefits.

Sound and Music Therapy

Creative expression has an undeniable healing effect, and music is a timeless human tradition that can speak to the heart and elevate one’s emotional state. Additionally, sound therapy that exposes the patient to different tones and frequencies can influence their brainwave patterns.

What Is Good About Paxil?

If you are concerned about your mental health treatment and are considering Paxil, remember that the efficacy of any SSRI depends on the individual and the state of their condition. Paxil can offer relief from depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders similar to other SSRIs and has been reported to provide effective treatment for severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. Paxil may also offer relief from depression while reducing the occurrence of suicidal impulses, but this is only true for some individuals. Others may have negative reactions to Paxil, including increased suicidal impulse.

Consult your prescribing doctor if you have any concerns about your current medication, if you want to try an alternative, or if you want to stop taking your medication. In any of these situations, it is possible to experience a paradoxical reaction to what you expect if you neglect to take the proper precautions. Paxil may be a beneficial choice to some but cause serious problems for others. Ultimately, the suitability of Paxil comes down to the individual.


1. Nevels RM, Gontkovsky ST, Williams BE. Paroxetine-The Antidepressant from Hell? Probably Not, But Caution Required. Psychopharmacol Bull. 2016;46(1):77-104 [cited 2021 Mar 9]

2. Paroxetine (Paxil), National Alliance on Mental Illness [cited 2021 Mar 9]

3. Prozac vs. Zoloft: Uses and More, Healthline [cited 2021 Mar 9]

4. Fujishiro J, TImanishi T, Onozawa K, Tsushima M Comparison of the anticholinergic effects of the serotonergic antidepressants, paroxetine, fluvoxamine and clomipramine PubMed, PMID: 12421645 DOI: 10.1016/s0014-2999(02)02557-8, 2002 Nov 15 [cited 2021 Mar 9]

5. Gliatto MF MD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Am Fam Physician. 2000 Oct 1;62(7):1591-1600 [cited 2021 Mar 9]

6. Vandergriendt C How to Recognize and Treat Xanax Addiction, Healthline, Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP, Updated June 25, 2018 [cited 2021 Mar 9]

7. Drug Interactions between Paxil and Vyvanse, [cited 2021 Mar 9]

8. Paroxetine (Oral Route), Mayo Clinic [cited 2021 Mar 9]

9. Use of Selective Serotonin-Reuptake Inhibitors in Pregnancy and the Risk of Birth Defects, N Engl J Med 2007; 356:2684-2692 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa066584 June 28, 2007 [cited 2021 Mar 9]

10. What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? American Psychological Association Div. 12 (Society of Clinical Psychology) 2017 Jul [cited 2021 Mar 9]

11. Carek PJ, Laibstain SE, Carek SM, Exercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety. Int J Psychiatry Med. 2011;41(1):15-28. doi: 10.2190/PM.41.1.c. PMID: 21495519. [cited 2021 Mar 9]

12. Kikuchi AM PhD, Tanabe A PhD DDS, Iwahori Y PhD, A systematic review of the effect of L-tryptophan supplementation on mood and emotional functioning Taylor Francis Online, 2020 Apr 10 [cited 2021 Mar 9]

13. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, WebMD, Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari MD, 2020 Feb 18 [cited 2021 Mar 9]

14. Papakostas GI MD, Mischoulon D MD PhD, Irene Shyu I BA, Alpert JE MD PhD, Fava M MD, S-Adenosyl Methionine (SAMe) Augmentation of Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors for Antidepressant Nonresponders With Major Depressive Disorder: A Double-Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial The American Journal of Psychiatry, 2010 Aug 01 [cited 2021 Mar 9]

15. Pilkington K, Kirkwood G, Rampes H, Cummings M, Richardson J. Acupuncture for anxiety and anxiety disorders—a systematic literature review. Acupunct Med. 2007 Jun;25(1-2):1-10. doi: 10.1136/aim.25.1-2.1. PMID: 17641561. [cited 2021 Mar 9]

Originally Published Mar 9, 2021 by Lyle Murphy

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

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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How Effective Is Paxil?
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Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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