Can Paxil Help With My OCD Symptoms?
You have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and you are committed to your weekly therapy sessions, but something is amiss. In other words, OCD therapies just are not working like you and your doctor hoped. Your OCD symptoms keep “ramping up” despite OCD therapies.
So, now what? Well, there is a good chance that your doctor will add a medication to the mix. The first-line medications for OCD are selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors – or SSRIs. SSRIs are antidepressants used to boost the amount of serotonin in your body, improve sleep quality and digestion, balance your moods, and regulate your behavior.
People with OCD tend to be low on serotonin (a serotonin deficiency), and low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter can trigger or worsen OCD symptoms. SSRIs were created to treat mood conditions, such as depression (major depressive disorder or MDD), bipolar disorder, etc., however, it can also be used for other mental health conditions, like OCD. Your doctor decides to add Paxil, a popular, safe, well-tolerated, and effective SSRI, to your treatment plan.
Paxil has shown tremendous success in the treatment of OCD, which is why your doctor decided to prescribe it to you. However, you are reluctant to take the medication because you do not know much about it. If you are hesitant about adding an SSRI to your treatment plan, worry no more, because this article will provide you with the information needed to make the right treatment decision for you.
OCD? What is That?
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety condition that involves unwanted and involuntary intrusive thoughts, urges, doubts, mental images, fears, negative emotions (obsessions), and/or repetitive compulsive behaviors or rituals or routines (compulsions). OCD is a secretive condition in that most sufferers keep their thoughts and behaviors hidden.
However, without OCD treatment, the condition can damage or destroy a person’s life. For instance, it can lead to fractured families, broken relationships, a loss of employment, health woes, and/or low self-esteem and self-confidence.
OCD obsessions may include a fear of germs, bacteria, viruses, infections, and/or disease (contamination OCD), a fear of harm or danger involving oneself or someone else (harm OCD), a fear of settling for one’s partner or fear of losing one’s partner to someone else (relationship OCD or ROCD), urges to engage in sexual or violent behaviors, or a need for orderliness or cleanliness.
And, OCD compulsions may include excessively cleaning, scrubbing, or washing one’s hands, body, home, car, etc., continuously counting in one’s head, constantly organizing and reorganizing things, such as furniture or objects, repeating mantras or phrases to ease stress and anxiety, and/or seeking reassurance from others or deliberately avoiding others.
OCD is typically diagnosed through observation, self-reports, and various psychological assessments. Thus, blood tests and other labs cannot determine if you have OCD. The good news is there are various OCD treatments available to help you get a grip on your sessions and/or compulsions.
What is Paxil?
Paxil, the name brand name for paroxetine, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant that increases the amount of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in the brain. Low serotonin levels (a serotonin deficiency) have been known to trigger or worsen OCD and other mental health conditions, like depression or major depressive disorder (MDD) and other anxiety conditions, like panic disorder or panic attacks, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
Serotonin is responsible for your mood, digestion, sleep quality, sexual desire, and happy feelings. More specifically, low serotonin levels can trigger poor impulse control, insomnia, irritability, racing thoughts, low self-esteem, and poor memory or cognitive impairment. Paxil was originally created to treat depression and other mood disorders.
Can Paxil Help OCD?
What Forms Does Paxil Come In?
Paxil is available in both tablet and liquid forms. Paxil is also offered in immediate-release (IR) and extended-release (ER) forms.
Do I Need a Prescription to Obtain Paxil?
Yes, Paxil is only available by prescription (from your doctor).
Is Paxil FDA-Approved for OCD?
Is Paxil FDA-approved for Children with OCD?
No, Paxil is not FDA-approved for OCD sufferers under the age of 18.
What is the Recommended Paxil Dosage for OCD?
The recommended Paxil dosage for OCD is:
Initial Dose – 20mg taken by mouth once a day
Maintenance Dose – 20-60mg taken by mouth once a day
Maximum Dose – 60mg taken by mouth once a day
Duration – Paxil can safely and effectively be taken for up to 6 months. Paxil may also be taken for a longer time, when and if needed.
Note: The Paxil dosage may be increased by 10mg increments weekly. The target Paxil dosage for OCD is 40mg daily.
How Should Paxil Be Taken for OCD?
If you have OCD, Paxil should be taken exactly as prescribed by your doctor. In other words, follow the instructions on your prescription bottle label. However, in general, swallow Paxil CR (extended-release tablets) whole.
More specifically, do not crush, chew, break, or liquefy the tablets. If you have been prescribed a “liquid” or oral suspension form of Paxil, measure the dose as accurately as possible by using a dosing syringe or cup. Refrain from using a kitchen spoon to measure the dose.
When Can I Expect to See Improvement in My OCD Symptoms?
Well, it could take 2-6 weeks to see a slight improvement in your OCD symptoms. However, it may take 12 weeks or longer for you to see the full effects of the medication, so do not give up or get discouraged, if you do not see significant improvement in your OCD symptoms immediately.
Is There Anything I Should Be Aware of Before Taking Paxil for My OCD?
Yes, there are some things you should be aware of before taking Paxil for your OCD.
Inform your doctor of the following conditions before taking Paxil for your OCD:
- Heart Disease
- Hypertension or High Blood Pressure
- A History of Strokes
- Liver Disease
- Kidney Disease
- A Bleeding or Blood-Clotting Disorder
- Seizures or Epilepsy
- Bipolar Disorder
- Drug Addiction
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Sexual Issues
- Narrow-Angle Glaucoma
- Low Blood Sodium Levels
Note: Do not take an MAOI 14 days before or 14 days after taking Paxil for your OCD symptoms. Combining these two medications could cause a dangerous drug interaction to occur. MAOIs may include isocarboxazid, linezolid, phenelzine, rasagiline, selegiline, and tranylcypromine. Also, wait at least 2 full weeks (14 days) after stopping Paxil to start taking an MAOI.
What Are Paxil’s Side Effects?
Like most medications, Paxil does come with a list of side effects, ranging from mild to severe.
These side effects include the following:
- Allergic Reactions – i.e., Hives, Breathing Problems, Facial or Throat Swelling, Severe Skin Reactions, Like Fever, Sore Throat, Burning Eyes, Painful Skin, Red or Purple Skin Rash That Involves Blistering and Peeling.
- Mood or Behavioral Changes
- Panic Attacks
- Thoughts of Self-Harm or Suicide
- Racing Thoughts
- Risk-Taking Behaviors
- Feelings of Extreme Happiness or Sadness
- Excessive Talking
- Blurry Vision
- Tunnel Vision
- Eye Pain, Eye Swelling, or Seeing Halos Around Lights
- Bone Pain or Tenderness
- Easy Bruising or Bleeding, Coughing Up Bood
- Weight or Appetite Changes
- Severe Nervous System Reaction – i.e., Rigid Muscles, High Fevers, Profuse Sweating, Mental Confusion, Irregular Heartbeats, Tics or Tremors, and/or Fainting
- Low Sodium Levels – i.e., Headaches, Mental Confusions, Slurred Speech, Severe Weakness, Loss of Coordination, and/or Unsteadiness
- Vision Changes
- Lethargy or Fatigue
- Profuse Sweating
- Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea, and/or Constipation
- Dry “Cotton” Mouth
- Excessive Yawning
- Repeated Infections
- Low Sex Drive, Impotence, Abnormal Ejaculation, or Delayed or Absent Orgasms
Will Paxil Affect My Sexual Performance?
It is possible.
Paxil can affect sexual function and performance and cause low libido (sex drive), a disinterest in sex, anorgasmia (delayed or absent orgasms), erectile dysfunction (ED), impotence, or premature ejaculation. The good news is many of these sexual issues can be successfully treated.
Could Paxil Make Me Suicidal?
Yes, Paxil can cause suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts and attempts) in some people, especially young adults. Suicidal ideation typically occurs the first few weeks after taking Paxil for OCD. Alert your doctor if you or your friends or loved ones start to notice a change in your mood and/or behavior.
Can I Take Paxil While Pregnant or Breastfeeding for My OCD Symptoms?
Taking Paxil for OCD during pregnancy can cause serious birth complications, such as lung issues, in your unborn baby. It is also possible to experience an OCD relapse if you stop taking it while pregnant. Therefore, do not stop taking the medication without consulting with your obstetrician and/or psychiatrist first. You should also not breastfeed your baby while taking Paxil for OCD.
Could My Medications and Supplements Interact with Paxil?
It is possible.
Inform your doctor and pharmacist if you take the following medications or supplements:
- Cimetidine –Tagamet
- St. John’s Wort
- Tryptophan or L-Tryptophan
- Warfarin – Coumadin or Jantoven
- Diuretics or “Water Pills”
- Heart Medications
- HIV or AIDS Medications
- Ibuprofen – Advil or Motrin
- Naproxen – Aleve
- Celecoxib – Celebrex
Note: Refrain from drinking alcohol or using drugs while taking Paxil.
What Will Happen If I Overdose on Paxil?
A Paxil overdose could lead to death, so call the Poison Helpline (1-800-222-1222) and go to your nearest emergency room immediately, if you believe you have overdosed on Paxil.
Why Should I Take Paxil for My OCD Symptoms?
It is common for OCD sufferers to feel like the condition is controlling their lives. They also may feel like their obsessions and compulsions are consuming their days and destroying their lives. These individuals may honestly feel like they must complete certain actions or behave in specific ways to avoid having “bad luck.”
Truthfully, these intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors are energy-depleting and time-consuming, preventing you from truly enjoying your life. Paxil can help you gain control over your thoughts and behaviors, so you can live a happier and more productive life.
Listed below are ways that Paxil can be beneficial for OCD sufferers:
- Paxil can help to reduce your obsessions and/or compulsions, which can make your life easier and more fulfilling.
- Paxil can also help ease OCD-related stress and anxiety, thereby, reducing your obsessions and/or compulsions.
- Paxil can help balance your moods and make you feel happier and more positive.
Note: If you are considering taking Paxil for OCD, you must consult your doctor about the potential benefits and risks. Keep in mind that Paxil can have side effects, so it is important to weigh the benefits and risks of taking Paxil for your OCD symptoms. The good news is for most OCD sufferers, the benefits outweigh the risks when trying to live a more “normal” and productive life. Thus, Paxil may be the right remedy for your condition.
What If I Want to Stop Taking Paxil? What Should I Do?
First, do not stop taking Paxil without speaking to your doctor. Abruptly stopping Paxil can trigger a host of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, and/or possibly lead to an OCD relapse. So, your doctor will likely slowly wean you off of the medication to avoid these complications.
What Is It Like to Take Paxil for OCD?
I believe the best way to fully understand how Paxil could affect you is to hear from people, who have or who are taking it for OCD.
Listed below are real-life reviews of Paxil for OCD:
“I have always suffered from anxiety and obsessive thoughts, but within the last year, it took a turn for the worse. I lost my job, could not sleep for almost two weeks, and in turn, started getting panic attacks. Then, I started having intrusive thoughts and I truly believed that I was losing my mind. I was scared all of the time and just felt hopeless. So, I went to a therapist and it helped.
My doctor also put me on Effexor (70 mg) daily. I never thought I was going to get better. Well, a few weeks ago, I started taking Paxil (20 mg) daily. Paxil has truly changed my life. I feel like ‘me’ again. I am writing this in hopes that someone, who reads this that feels hopeless and scared does not give up. There is help. Hang in there. If I can do it, so can you.”
“I have been on Paxil for about 15 years (except when I was pregnant). It has been great for my OCD, but it still makes me feel tired, and I have gained weight that is hard to lose. So, my doctor is changing my medication to something more ‘energizing,’ and will not ‘pile on the pounds.’ Overall, I think Paxil can be an awesome drug for anxiety and OCD, but there are a lot of side effects, as compared to other SSRIs.”
“Paxil can do a lot for people with depression, and maybe anxiety, but it does not help OCD, in my opinion. I took it for 6 months, and while my mood was great, my OCD symptoms were still very severe. I ended up ‘weaning off’ the drug slowly since it was not doing that much, and it was the worst nightmare I have ever experienced. Not only did my OCD/anxiety come back tenfold, but I also started experiencing severe hot flashes, night sweats, and suicidal thoughts.
My doctor told me that as long as I eat healthily and exercise, the withdrawal symptoms would start to dissipate. However, after 8 months of being off of Paxil. In other words, I am still going through severe withdrawal symptoms, and will most likely have to go back on SSRIs again. So, I would advise anyone with OCD to stay away from Paxil because you will NEVER get off of it.”
What Are Other Ways to Treat OCD?
The most common OCD treatments involve OCD therapies, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and/or exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP). With ERP therapy being the most common go-to OCD treatment. When OCD cannot be treated with OCD therapies, medications, like SSRI antidepressants (i.e., Luvox, Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, etc.) may be added to the treatment plan.
When SSRIs are ineffective, other medications may be prescribed, like SNRIs, tricyclic antidepressants, antipsychotics, MAOIs, prescription antihistamines, etc. Lifestyle changes, natural remedies, alternative OCD treatments, and self-help tools, like CBD, vitamin supplements, hypnotherapy/hypnosis, healthy coping skills and strategies, mindfulness meditation, healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, OCD books and workbooks, OCD support groups and forums, journaling, TMS therapy, and/or online OCD treatment program, like Impulse Therapy, can help you wrangle your OCD symptoms under control, so you can have the life you envisioned.
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- Kamijima, K., & Aoki, M. (2006). Effectiveness of paroxetine in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorders. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 6(7), 945–956. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1586/14737184.108.40.2065
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