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Effexor® For Anxiety: Is It Effective?

According to data from the National Comorbidity Study Replication (NCS-R), an estimated 19.1 percent of American adults have dealt with anxiety disorders during the past year.

If you’re one of the tens of millions of American adults diagnosed with an anxiety disorder every year, you may have looked into the treatment options that are available for anxiety.

The medication Effexor®, which contains the active ingredient venlafaxine, is an antidepressant that’s commonly used to treat anxiety, as well as mental health disorders such as depression.

If you’re affected by anxiety, your healthcare provider may recommend using Effexor or a similar type of antidepressant to treat your symptoms, improve your mood and help you make progress towards recovery. 

Below, we’ve explained what Effexor is, as well as how it and related medications work to treat anxiety.  

We’ve dug into the science behind Effexor to look at how effective it is, as well as the side effects you may experience while using this medication.

Finally, we’ve listed several other antidepressants and other medications that are typically used to treat and manage different forms of anxiety.

What Is Effexor?

Effexor is an antidepressant. It’s part of a class of medications called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs.

Like many other medications, Effexor and its active ingredient are available in several different forms. 

These include Effexor, which is an immediate release medication that’s sold as a tablet, and Effexor XR®, an extended release medication that comes in capsule form.

Both versions of Effexor contain the active ingredient venlafaxine. Venlafaxine is also available as a generic medication under a variety of different brand names.

Effexor is currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (social phobia), panic disorder and major depressive disorder (MDD).

As an SNRI, Effexor works by increasing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine -- two vital neurotransmitters -- in your brain.

Serotonin is responsible for regulating certain aspects of your thoughts and behavior, including your mood, happiness and anxiety.

Research has shown that low levels of serotonin can cause depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and suicidal behavior.

Norepinephrine, on the other hand, plays a vital role in keeping you alert, attentive and able to concentrate on specific tasks throughout the day.

Just like with serotonin, research shows that issues related to norepinephrine levels are linked to anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

By increasing the levels of these neurotransmitters in your brain, medications like Effexor can help to improve your mood and manage the symptoms you may experience if you suffer from anxiety or depression.

Does Effexor Treat Anxiety?

Effexor is one of several antidepressants used to treat anxiety disorders. Several studies have found that it’s effective at managing anxiety symptoms and helping people with anxiety enjoy a higher quality of life.

Four separate clinical trials of Effexor XR, two of which lasted for eight weeks and the other two of which lasted 26 weeks, found that it was effective at treating generalized anxiety disorder.

A meta-analysis published in the journal PLOS One looked at the evidence for venlafaxine -- the active ingredient in Effexor -- as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder.

The researchers, who looked at findings from 14 separate studies, noted that extended release venlafaxine was “significantly more effective” at producing change in people’s Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety scores (a metric used to measure anxiety) than a placebo.

They concluded that venlafaxine is an “effective and well-tolerated” treatment option for people that suffer from generalized anxiety disorder.

Other clinical trials have established that Effexor XR is an effective treatment for panic disorder and social anxiety disorder.

Other studies have found that Effexor is safe and effective as a treatment for several other types of anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

However, Effexor currently isn’t approved by the FDA as a first-line treatment for these forms of anxiety. 

Overall, there’s a significant amount of scientific evidence to show that brand name Effexor and generic venlafaxine work well as treatments for many different types of anxiety.

Effexor Side Effects & Interactions

Effexor is a common, widely-used medication that’s prescribed to treat anxiety, depression and a range of related conditions.

Like other antidepressants, Effexor and generic venlafaxine may cause side effects. The most common side effects of Effexor XR (the extended release form of Effexor) are:

  • Nausea
  • Somnolence (sleepiness or drowsiness)
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Abnormal ejaculation
  • Anorexia
  • Constipation
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • Decreased libido

These side effects are similar to those of other antidepressants, including similar medications in the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) classes.

Data from clinical trials indicates that approximately 12 percent of people prescribed Effexor XR discontinue treatment or switch to other medication due to side effects.

If you are prescribed Effexor, Effexor XR or generic venlafaxine and experience side effects, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider as soon as you can. 

Make sure not to change your dosage or stop taking your medication without first talking to your healthcare provider. 

Like other antidepressants, Effexor and generic venlafaxine can interact with other medications, including other medications used to treat anxiety and depression.

More specifically, Effexor may interact with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) -- a class of older medications that are used to treat depression

These interactions may occur several days or weeks after stopping treatment with an MAOI.

Make sure to inform your healthcare provider if you currently take or have recently taken other medications before using Effexor.

Other SNRIs, SSRIs and Medications for Anxiety

Effexor is one of several antidepressants used to treat generalized anxiety disorder and other forms of anxiety. 

If you’ve been diagnosed with a form of anxiety, your healthcare provider may suggest using one of several different types of medication. 

In addition to Effexor, other medications that are commonly used to treat anxiety include:

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Several different selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are prescribed to treat anxiety disorders. 

These include fluoxetine (sold under the brand name Prozac®), paroxetine (Paxil®), sertraline (Zoloft®), escitalopram (Lexapro®) and fluvoxamine (Luvox®).

These medications work by increasing the amount of serotonin that circulates in your brain. 

Our guide to SSRIs provides more information on how these medications work and why you may be prescribed this type of medication to manage anxiety.

SNRIs and Other Antidepressants

In addition to Effexor and generic venlafaxine, the SNRI duloxetine (Cymbalta®) is also used to treat generalized anxiety disorder. 

Certain tricyclic antidepressants, such as doxepin (Sinequan®) may be used to treat anxiety in cases where patients also suffer from other mental health issues.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines, which function by slowing down the workings of your central nervous system, are often prescribed as short-term treatments for anxiety, insomnia and related conditions.

Unlike antidepressants, which can take weeks or months to start working, benzodiazepines are fast-acting medications that provide rapid relief from symptoms. 

Although effective, medications of this type can cause dependence and are typically only prescribed for short-term use.

Benzodiazepines prescribed to treat anxiety include alprazolam (Xanax®), diazepam (Valium®), lorazepam (Ativan®) and clonazepam (Klonopin®).

Buspirone

Buspirone (BuSpar®), a non-benzodiazepine medication, is occasionally used to treat anxiety when other treatments, such as SSRIs or SNRIs, aren’t effective. 

This medication is usually prescribed as a short-term treatment for anxiety.

Beta-Blockers

Beta-blockers are a class of medications that are typically used to treat cardiovascular health issues, such as high blood pressure. 

In some cases, these medications help to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as trembling or a rapid heartbeat.

Although beta-blockers aren’t approved by the FDA to treat anxiety, certain medications in this class are used off-label to treat performance anxiety.

Our detailed guide to anti-anxiety medications goes into greater detail about the medications listed above and their effectiveness as anxiety treatments.

Using Effexor For Anxiety

Effexor is one of several antidepressants that’s approved to treat anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

If you’ve been diagnosed with anxiety, your healthcare provider may recommend that you use Effexor or a similar type of medication to treat and control your symptoms. 

It’s important to closely follow your healthcare provider’s instructions if you’re prescribed any type of antidepressant or other anti-anxiety medication. 

We offer venlafaxine and other antidepressants online, following a private consultation with a licensed psychiatry provider.

We also offer a range of online mental health services, including online counseling and support groups for managing anxiety and other common issues.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.