What is Prozac's Effect on Anxiety?

It's no secret that anxiety is at an all-time high in the United States. The mental health condition affects 40 million adults in the US aged 18 and older, and the number is rising. If you have experienced anxiety, you might know that the feeling often goes away after some time. It can come about in many ways, from pressures at home, stress at work, or factors from the past.

When anxiety becomes persistent, however, it might be a disorder. Fortunately, there are various ways to alleviate the symptoms, like psychotherapy and medication. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a popular choice in treating anxiety. Here we'll explore the effects of Prozac on anxiety.

What is Prozac?

Prozac, also known as Fluoxetine, is an SSRI antidepressant. As approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the drug is mainly used to treat major depression, panic disorder, and obsession-compulsive disorder.

It is FDA off-label approved to treat other anxiety disorders, which means the drug can be legally prescribed for other conditions, and not just the ones it has been officially approved for. It is up to the doctor's discretion to decide on the best course of treatment, and it is frequently used to treat anxiety.

Taking Prozac for anxiety

Prozac is widely prescribed to help individuals manage their anxiety disorder symptoms and is considered a first-line treatment. While no drug can cure anxiety, they do help regulate symptoms so that individuals may feel and function better day-to-day.

Prozac and SSRIs in general have become a drug of choice for anxiety because they have lighter side effects and greater ease of use than previous drugs and antidepressants used to treat anxiety.

To take Prozac, an individual must first receive a diagnosis of a mental health disorder. A family doctor may write a prescription, but it is best to consult a mental health professional, like a psychiatrist, who can also prescribe medication.

Why do people take Prozac versus other drugs for anxiety?

Many types of medication are available for anxiety, so why Prozac? You and your medical provider may need to try a few medications to find the best fit for your case. Here are some of the other options available:

  • Benzodiazepines - Typically used for short-term treatment, since it's a habit-forming drug and best to avoid taking unless prescribed by your doctor.
  • Buspirone - Similar to SSRIs, it takes Buspirone a few weeks to become fully effective, though it is not fully understood how the medication works. It can cause dizziness, headaches, and nausea.
  • Tricyclics - An older drug that works as well as SSRIs for treating most anxiety disorders, except obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Used less often because newer drugs see fewer side effects.
  • MAOIs - Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) treat panic disorder and social phobia more than anxiety. MOAIs are older drugs that may cause more side effects and come with dietary restrictions.
  • Beta-blockers - More commonly used to treat heart conditions and the physical symptoms of social anxiety. May be prescribed for stressful social situations like giving a speech.

Ultimately, your doctor may prescribe Prozac since it has fewer side effects than older drugs like Tricyclics and MOAIs and provides a safe, long-term treatment rather than short-term patch treatments like benzos and beta-blockers.

How does taking Prozac work?

When first starting with Prozac, a medical professional typically prescribes a lower dose then increases the dosage over time. The medication may come in the form of liquid or capsule and is taken around the same time every day, with or without food. Please use the drug exactly as your doctor prescribes.

Prozac may need a few weeks to take full effect, so if you do not notice any changes in the first few weeks, remember this is normal and continue taking the drug. You may see an improvement in your anxiety within the first two weeks, but it could take up to six weeks for full effect. It is important not to stop abruptly, as it may cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and potentially be dangerous.

What are the side effects?

Common side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sleep problems
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sexual problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea
  • Blurred vision

Severe and rare side effects include:

  • Swelling
  • Rashes / hives
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Bleeding or bruising
  • Feeling confused
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nightmares
  • Confusion
  • Crying spells

Please consult a medical professional if you are noticing severe side effects or withdrawal symptoms.

What are potential drug interactions?

When taking Prozac, do not take it at the same time as alcohol and certain over-the-counter and prescriptions. Avoid aspirin for the risk of bleeding and avoid nutritional herbs or supplements like St. John's Wort.

Prozac should also not be combined with tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Take caution if you are taking drugs that affect the central nervous system, like benzodiazepines.

Please always consult your healthcare provider in regards to your specific case.

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