Paxil is an SSRI that is used to treat depression and anxiety. It has been found to be successful at treating all types of anxiety.


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The information below is presented as a generalized and educational overview. The specific details of treatment protocols mentioned in this article may not reflect the protocols utilized by A Mission for Michael.

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Anxiety can be best described as “a feeling of fear or apprehension about what’s to come.”1
Anxiety is how our body responds to stress; however, a person develops an anxiety disorder when these feelings are extreme and occur longer than six months. Normally, an anxiety disorder would interfere with a person’s day-to-day life.

Infographic- What does an SSRI do for anxiety

Causes of Anxiety

Scientists have not yet discovered what exactly causes anxiety. Though, there are some genetic factors at play that can make someone more susceptible to developing an anxiety disorder as well as environmental factors such as trauma or extreme stress. Scientists believe brain chemistry is another contributor, as anxiety is caused by something in the brain that triggers fear.1

Symptoms of Anxiety

There are several different symptoms that a person might experience if they have an anxiety disorder. These symptoms fluctuate and range in severity depending on the individual—symptoms that become too overwhelming or uncontrollable usually result in panic attacks. Some common symptoms are as follows:1

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Rapid breathing

  • Difficulties concentrating or paying attention

  • Restlessness

  • Insomnia

  • Nightmares

  • Intrusive thoughts

  • Flashbacks of painful memories

  • Panic attacks


There are five main types of anxiety disorders, all of which vary in symptoms and causes. If you believe you or a loved one has one of these types of anxiety, it is important to not self-diagnose but rather seek out a medical professional who can review the symptoms.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

This is the main type of anxiety that people think of when looking at anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety disorder is best described as “chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.”2 A person with this kind of anxiety might seem to always be nervous or scared, even when there are no environmental stimulants around them.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder where a person struggles with obsessions, normally unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviors—better known as compulsions. Generally, repetitive behaviors are performed to try and subdue the thoughts; however, compulsions only provide temporary relief from them. When a person doesn’t do a compulsion, it will increase the feeling of anxiety.2

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder develops when a person experiences a traumatic event causing unwanted flashbacks or episodes that bring them back to the event. This normally increases anxiety and can cause extreme fear. A person struggling with PTSD might experience chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and extreme anxiety during an episode. PTSD is very common among combat veterans and victims of physical and sexual assault.2

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is best described as having extreme anxiety in social situations. A person with this disorder will struggle with extreme self-consciousness during everyday activities. Sometimes, this will only impact social activities such as eating in front of others or public speaking events.2

Panic Disorder

Finally, a panic disorder is when a person has panic attacks on a regular basis. Panic attacks are commonly described as having the feeling of extreme fear and physical symptoms such as chest pains, pain in the abdomen, nausea, and shortness of breath.2


Paxil, also known as paroxetine, is an antidepressant that is prescribed to help treat anxiety. This type of antidepressant is called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).3 SSRIs increase the amount of serotonin being produced inside of a person’s brain.4 So, with more serotonin available, nerve synapses are able to pass signals to each other at an easier rate.4 Thus, Paxil actively tries to regulate the amount of serotonin levels produced in the brain and body so messages can be carried between brain cells effectively and reduce anxiety.

Serotonin stabilizes mood, well-being, and happiness—repercussions of a lack of this chemical usually include anxiety and depression. Anxiety has been linked to abnormal serotonin levels in the body, making SSRI antidepressants an ideal option for treating anxiety. The key is regulating serotonin in the brain. While Paxil is sometimes used to treat depression, it is primarily used to treat different types of anxiety disorders.


Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and sleep. Anxiety disorders are caused by an abnormality in the brain’s neurotransmitter system. Because Paxil is an SSRI, it focuses on regulating a person’s serotonin levels within the body and mind. Paxil ensures that the brain cells don’t absorb serotonin quickly, balancing out the levels. This process can help reduce the effects of anxiety and other panic disorders.5

Paxil’s Effects on Anxiety

Paxil has a lot of benefits for people who struggle with anxiety. One of the biggest benefits is that it helps decrease fear and panic attacks by regulating the serotonin levels within the brain. Also, it can lower the desire to do compulsions and lower the number of obsessions.

These positive effects can help a person with anxiety function day-to-day by reducing debilitating symptoms and improving a person’s mood, appetite, energy, and sleep patterns. Because Paxil is an antidepressant, it can also help treat depression within a patient as well.6

Paxil’s biggest impact is that it aids in restoring interest and desire to do tasks throughout the day that were not possible due to anxiety. As a result, fearful and overwhelming experiences can become manageable ones.


Normally, it takes six to eight weeks before Paxil fully kicks in. Within the first two weeks, one will begin to experience better sleep patterns, more energy, and an increased appetite. This is a sign that the Paxil is working and doing its job.7

It will take up to eight weeks for a person to notice a large decrease in anxiety, panic attacks, and compulsions. This is commonly the same amount of time it would take Paxil to help with depression.7

Paxil Doses

The dose of Paxil prescribed will vary depending on what type of anxiety you struggle with. Therefore, discussing the proper dosage with your doctor is imperative.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Doctors will usually start the dose at 20 mg per day and won’t go above 50 mg per day for adults. For older adults, doctors might start at 10 mg. Paxil is normally taken in the morning.8

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Doctors will usually start an adult with 20 mg per day, reaching 60 mg per day as the maximum. For older adults, it will start at 10 mg and can be increased up to 40 mg.8


Doctors normally treat PTSD with the same Paxil dosage as generalized anxiety disorder—20 mg to start, increasing to no more than 50 mg per day.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Doctors commonly prescribe adults 20 mg once a day and 10 mg for older adults. Doctors normally don’t go above 20 mg a day for social anxiety disorder.8

Panic Disorders

Doctors treat panic disorders similarly to OCD when it comes to dosage. They will start adults at 10 mg once daily, then work up to 60 mg if needed. The same goes for older adults, but the dose would not exceed 40 mg.8


There are some side effects of Paxil that can impact your daily life; however, the benefits of Paxil outweigh the side effects for the most part. This will be a decision you want to make with your healthcare professional. Side effects vary from person to person—some don’t have any issues with the medication, while others experience more adverse effects.

Infographic- Types of Anxiety Disorders


One of the most common side effects is headaches. Paxil balances serotonin levels inside the brain, which could occasionally cause headaches and migraines.


Another common side effect is dizziness. This normally happens when a person suddenly stands up. If dizziness persists, it is best to contact your doctor right away, especially if it causes tremors or flu–like symptoms.


A person might also feel weakness or fatigue. Anxiety and depression medications can sometimes cause muscle weakness as chemicals are rebalanced within the brain.

Difficulty Concentrating

Although Paxil is treating anxiety, a person may still have trouble concentrating. This issue is most likely due to the serotonin regulation within the brain. If difficulty concentrating persists, discuss it with your doctor.


Nervousness may persist after taking Paxil. If severe, talk with your doctor about a potential increase in dosage.


With any medication that affects the brain, a person risks experiencing forgetfulness. Paxil can cause small lapses in memory or struggle with remembering little details.


Confusion is another side effect of Paxil. If confusion is severe, it is best to speak to your health care provider. One of the most important things you can do while taking Paxil is to keep an open line of communication with your doctor to track and monitor side effects and the effectiveness of the treatment.

Paxil is a very effective antidepressant that can be used to treat a variety of anxiety disorders. If you want to learn more, contact your mental health professional to see if Paxil is the best option for you.