If you have taken the Paxil (Paroxetine) or Paxil CR (controlled-release), you know the true power behind this SSRI medication. When I first took it for social anxiety, it worked wonders – I felt so good that I never wanted to come off of it. Eventually the drug stopped working and I fell into a deep depression while still taking Paxil. I had been taking it for about 9 months, and decided that I should probably just get off of the stuff altogether if it was no longer helping. I was young and my general practitioner didn’t explain that it would be advisable to “taper” vs. going “cold turkey.”
Long story short, I had a total mental breakdown, severe anxiety, severe depression, suicidal ideation, and had a very difficult time recovering from the Pax-hell that I was being put through. The withdrawal symptoms were absolutely awful and I felt as though I would never recover. In all honesty, I think it took me several years before I felt “normal” again by my standards. Although my case of an extended withdrawal recovery period is not the norm, many people really struggle coming off of Paxil.
Factors that influence Paxil withdrawal include:
If you have read any of my other articles regarding antidepressants, specifically SSRI’s, you should know that there are a number of factors that play a role in your withdrawal from a medication. It should be noted that Paxil is among the most powerful antidepressants on the market – some research has even compared its effects as being “similar to cocaine.” Whether those claims are scientifically founded is another story. However, anyone that has had experience with this drug knows how hellish the withdrawal can be.
1. Time Span
How long were you prescribed Paxil? Have you only been taking it for a few weeks? Have you been on it for years? Obviously time span plays a huge role in determining how our body’s are going to respond to withdrawal. If you take something away from your body that you have been giving it for an extended period of time, you are going to have a tougher time rebounding compared to someone who was only on it for a couple weeks or months.
What was the dosage that you were taking? Paxil comes in some standard dosages of 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, and 60 mg. There is also the Paxil CR version which comes in 12.5 mg, 25 mg, 37.5 mg, etc. Obviously the CR simply means “controlled release” and that the dosage was slowly released over a 24 hour period. With the regular version of Paxil, the drug can get absorbed more quickly or all at once. They end up being very similar once your body gets accustomed to the standard Paxil. Anyways, the greater the dosage of this stuff, the tougher it is going to be to withdraw.
3. Individual physiology
There are rare superhuman individuals that don’t really notice withdrawal from certain medications. How sensitive you are as a person is going to play a major role in determining how Paxil withdrawal feels. Some people may notice that they are back to normal within a matter of weeks, while for others it may take months. And for others, like myself, it took years to feel better again.
4. Cold turkey vs. tapering
With the sheer potency of Paxil, I highly recommend that you do NOT stop cold turkey. Stopping cold turkey is just asking for some major trouble. When I was on this medication, I was only on the 12.5 mg CR version and I stopped cold turkey – huge mistake. I experienced withdrawal symptoms for a long time – and it took me years to feel “normal” again. Tapering is the smart way to go about withdrawal – gradually wean yourself off this medication with the help of your psychiatrist and/or doctor. If you haven’t yet quit the drug, but plan to withdraw soon, be sure to read: “How To Taper off of Paxil Properly.”
Paxil Withdrawal Symptoms: List
There are so many different withdrawal symptoms that people may experience while on this medication. Although you may not experience every symptom on the list below, it is common to experience several of them at the same time.
- Anger – Want to see someone get mad? Have them withdraw from Paxil. Coming off of this medication can make even the most docile human being turn into a raging evil monster.
- Anxiety – The anxiety coming off of Paxil is among the worst many people ever experience in their lives. Not everyone experiences this symptom, but the drop in serotonin levels can contribute to high anxiety coming off of Paxil.
- Blurred vision – Although this sounds somewhat odd to experience, people have reported that their vision seems blurred at times while coming off of Paxil. I had this experience, and my vision is perfectly fine, but something was clearly going on.
- Confusion – You may experience difficulties with thinking and may become easily confused throughout the day. This is normal – just remember that your thinking is temporarily slowed and your brain is trying to recover from the Paxil.
- Crying spells – It is common for people coming off of Paxil to breakdown and start crying – often uncontrollably. Feelings of deep depression and desperation may accompany this crying. Do your best to tough it out and recognize that it’s just the withdrawal.
- Decreased appetite – Coming off of Paxil you’ll experience the opposite of what you felt while on the drug. For most people, Paxil makes them hungry. When they stop, they have a tough time rebuilding their appetite for awhile.
- Dizziness – You may experience an extreme case of vertigo for the first couple weeks coming off of this medication. Just recognize that this is a common withdrawal symptom.
- Electric shocks – You may feel as though you are being electrically shocked or experience what many refer to as “brain zaps.” This can be very distressful in itself, but just realize that they will eventually go away as the drug leaves your system.
- Fatigue – It is very common to experience lethargy or fatigue. You may feel like sleeping all day and not wanting to do anything. Do your best to get through the day and do what you can.
- Flu-like – It isn’t uncommon to experience flu-like symptoms for the first couple weeks while coming off of Paxil – especially if you stopped cold turkey.
- Headaches – It is common to get headaches and/or feel pressure in the head during withdrawal. I had such severe headaches that I actually thought I needed to get an MRI to determine any alternative causes.
- Hot flashes – Many people experience hot flashes for weeks while coming off of Paxil.
- Hypersensitivity – You may be hypersensitive to light, sounds, and motion. I remember that I would freak out at loud noises and or super bright sunlight. This can cause you to go into panic mode.
- Hypochondria – It is pretty common to fear that you are going crazy while withdrawing. I thought I was going to develop schizophrenia, cancer, and/or problems with my hearing and vision. Every little thing made me panic and think disease.
- Insomnia – Can’t fall asleep at night? Since your brain’s serotonin supply is now diminished, you may find yourself unable to sleep or find mental peace. This insomnia will last until your brain finds a way to recalibrate its neurotransmitters.
- Mood swings – The mood swings that you experience may be absolutely crazy. You may go from extreme anger, to extreme sadness, feel aggressive one minute, and be sympathetic the next. Do your best to cope with this.
- Muscle cramps – Your body may ache and feel sore all over. This is because it is getting re-acclimated to experiencing life without Paxil cycling through it.
- Nausea – If every little thing makes you feel nauseated and somewhat sick, it could be a result of the withdrawal.
- Panic attacks – You may find yourself panicking in almost every major situation. Whether you are at work, school, or just out in public, everything may provoke a fear response. Do your best to fight through this feeling of discomfort.
- Poor concentration – Can you focus? Of course not, you’re coming off of Paxil. Most people experience a little cognitive boost while on the medication, and when they come off of it, they are unable to focus.
- Slowed thinking – If you find yourself unable to think quickly, perform well on the job, and/or problem solve, it’s due to the withdrawal.
- Severe depression – The depression that you experience coming off of Paxil may be so severe, that you won’t even know how to make it through life. Do your best to focus on making it through one day at a time. Eventually you will rebound back to 100%.
- Suicidal thoughts – Feel suicidal before you take Paxil? Coming off of it the suicidal thoughts may be 100x worse. Yes you read right, 100x worse. The best thing you can do for yourself is try to think positive and/or do something to distract yourself from the way you are feeling.
- Sweating – It is common to sweat profusely while on Paxil, and you may find yourself sweating a ton while coming off of it.
- Vivid dreams – Many people experience vivid dreams while on this medication, as well as while coming off of it.
Note: It is known that Paxil stays in your system for only 4 to 6 days after your last dose; it has a short-half-life. For this reason, many people notice severe discontinuation symptoms within just days of stopping Paxil.
Paxil Withdrawal Symptoms Length of Time: How long will they last?
How long will withdrawal from the drug Paxil last? Like I said, it will totally depend based on individual factors. New research suggests that the withdrawal period actually lasts a lot longer than professionals originally thought. They are finally starting to see the light that these drugs are not something to be taken lightly. Most people have withdrawal symptoms for at least a couple months following discontinuation. A good rule of thumb to go by is give it 90 days to fully recover – most people feel back to themselves after 3 months time.
In the meantime, try to take it one day at a time and don’t freak out at every little symptom. Your brain is likely in panic mode. Make sure you are exercising, eating healthy, and socializing to the best of your ability. A day will come when you will feel 100% and back to normal even if you don’t believe it right now. The process takes time. If you can make it through this withdrawal, you can make it through anything. I am here if you need to share your comments and experiences.