Is Cymbalta Effective in Treating Anxiety?

By Latifa deGraft-Johnson, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
May 4, 2022

Anxiety disorders are the most common type of psychiatric disorders—almost 29 percent of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime.

Each year, $42.3 billion is spent on care for anxiety disorders in the United States.

If you’re diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or major depressive disorder (MDD), your doctor may prescribe Cymbalta.

Cymbalta is a brand name for the generic drug duloxetine, a type of medication called a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI).

Cymbalta has also been proven to treat nerve pain (peripheral neuropathy) in patients with diabetes.

Duloxetine works by helping to restore the balance of certain natural substances (serotonin and norepinephrine) in the brain which can decrease your anxiety. 

In this article, I’ll tell you more about what Cymbalta is, and how it works.

I’ll talk about the medication’s use for anxiety disorders, as well as other conditions.

I’ll outline some of the common side effects of Cymbalta.

And finally, tell you when you should talk to your doctor.

What is Cymbalta?

Cymbalta is used for the treatment of major depressive disorder in adults and generalized anxiety disorder in adults and children over the age of seven.

It has been proven that a once-a-day 60 mg dose of Cymbalta can offer relief of anxiety symptoms in those with depression within 2-4 weeks.

Cymbalta is a type of medication called a serotonin and norepinephrine inhibitor, or SNRI.

Serotonin and norepinephrine are chemicals in your body called neurotransmitters.

These chemicals transmit messages in your brain and body. When these chemicals are finished carrying their messages, they’re usually reabsorbed by the brain, a process called “reuptake.” 

SNRIs slow down, or inhibit, the reuptake process.

This leaves more norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain. Increasing these natural substances in the brain helps improve your mood, sleep, appetite, and energy levels.

It also decreases nervousness.

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How Effective is Cymbalta for Treating Anxiety Disorder?

If you have been experiencing excessive worry or anxiety for six months or more, you may have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep disturbances and trouble sleeping

After 10 weeks of treatment with duloxetine, 50-60% of GAD patients see their anxiety symptoms improve by 50% or more.

When other treatments have not worked, other studies have shown that Cymbalta can be effective for anxiety.

If you are prescribed Cymbalta, take it only as directed by your healthcare provider and do not miss doses.

It may take a few weeks to see an improvement in your symptoms.

Regardless of whether you see an improvement or not, talk to your doctor before stopping the medicine.

Never stop taking Cymbalta or another antidepressant suddenly, as this can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

Other Uses for Cymbalta 

Cymbalta can also be prescribed for diabetic peripheral neuropathy in patients who experience nerve pain from diabetes. 

It has also been shown to decrease the nerve pain that can follow shingles.

Your doctor may also prescribe it to lessen the symptoms of the following conditions.

Fibromyalgia

If you are tired, achy, irritable, and having trouble sleeping, you may be one of 4 million Americans suffering from fibromyalgia.

A chronic, lifelong illness that causes muscle pain and tenderness all over the body, fibromyalgia can also cause sleep problems and changes to mood and memory.

More research is needed to understand fibromyalgia in greater detail, but many researchers believe that the cause of the pain is due to the nerve cells triggering too many pain signals.

Cymbalta can reduce the intensity of these pain signals. 

Chronic low back pain

Low back pain is the most common type of pain reported by Americans—25% of adults have reported it in the prior three months.

If your low back pain lasts longer than 12 weeks, the condition is considered chronic.

Your doctor may prescribe Cymbalta.

Studies have shown that a once-a-day dose has been reported to offer a greater reduction in pain. 

Chronic musculoskeletal pain

Musculoskeletal pain includes pain in the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, or ligaments.

If you have chronic musculoskeletal pain, your doctor may prescribe Cymbalta. 

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is another type of chronic musculoskeletal pain.

It’s a condition where the protective tissue at the end of the bones, called cartilage, wears down.

This can cause joint pain and stiffness.

Osteoarthritis begins gradually and worsens over time.

Your doctor may prescribe Cymbalta to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis, but the medication will not treat osteoarthritis directly.

Common Side Effects of Cymbalta

Before taking Cymbalta, read all the information on the label, and take it only as directed by your healthcare provider.

Tell your doctor about all other medications and supplements you are taking to avoid drug interactions that can occur.

Your doctor or pharmacist may list the potential side effects you may experience.

The most common side effect of duloxetine is nausea.

Other common side effects include:

These side effects usually lessen over the first week or two as you continue to take the medication.

In addition to these potential side effects, you may also experience sexual side effects such as problems with orgasm or ejaculatory delay.

These adverse effects tend not to improve over time.

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When to See a Doctor 

When you start taking Cymbalta, you may experience feelings of nervousness, among other side effects.

These side effects should dissipate after two weeks of taking the drug regularly, once your body has adjusted.

If symptoms persist, talk to your healthcare provider.

They will be able to determine if duloxetine is the right treatment plan for you, or they may switch you to another medication. 

Tell your doctor if you experience any of these rare, but serious, symptoms:

Avoid drinking alcohol when taking Cymbalta.

Alcohol can significantly disrupt the efficacy of duloxetine and can put you at greater risk of liver damage. 

Tell your doctor if you have abdominal pain, dark-colored urine, itchy skin, nausea, vomiting, or yellowed skin or eyes.

If any of your symptoms worsen past the first four weeks, talk with your doctor before stopping the medicine. 

If you’re having a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. You can also get free 24/7 support from a suicide and crisis expert by calling or texting 988. If you’d prefer to chat online, you can chat with a suicide and crisis expert by visiting the Lifeline Chat.

How K Health Can Help

Think you might need a prescription for Cymbalta (Duloxetine)?

K Health has clinicians standing by 24/7 to evaluate your symptoms and determine if Cymbalta is right for you.

Get started with our free assessment, which will tell you in minutes if treatment could be a good fit. If yes, we’ll connect you right to a clinician who can prescribe medication and have it shipped right to your door.

Frequently Asked Questions

How quickly does Cymbalta work for anxiety?
After 2-4 weeks of taking Cymbalta daily, you should begin to notice relief in your anxiety-related symptoms and a reduction in your nervousness.
Can Cymbalta make anxiety worse?
It may take some time for your body to adjust and accept the medicine. Cymbalta may make your anxiety worse instead of better in the beginning, or if you change your dose. You may notice a change in your mood, or feel more anxious, agitated, or aggressive. Talk with your doctor if these symptoms persist.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Latifa deGraft-Johnson, MD

Dr. Latifa deGraft-Johnson is a board-certified family medicine physician with 20 years of experience. She received her bachelor's degree from St. Louis University, her medical degree from Ross University, and completed her family medicine residency at the University of Florida. Her passion is in preventative medicine and empowering her patients with knowledge.

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