Everything You Need To Know About Effexor for Anxiety

By Sabina Rebis, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
April 27, 2022

Data estimates that over 30% of adults in the United States will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.

Anxiety disorders can interfere with your life, including your ability to do everyday tasks, such as going to work and school, and may affect your ability to participate in personal relationships. 

There are a variety of treatments available for anxiety, including therapies, lifestyle changes, and medications.

Effexor is one medication used to treat a variety of anxiety disorders. 

In this article, I’ll discuss what Effexor is and what research says about Effexor for anxiety.

I’ll talk about its side effects and how to take it safely.

Finally, I’ll explore some other treatments for anxiety and will go over precautions that should be taken while taking Effexor. 

What is Effexor?

Effexor (generically known as venlafaxine) is an FDA approved antidepressant medication used to treat a variety of psychiatric disorders.

It is part of a class of medications known as serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which are prescribed to help improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

It helps relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, including persistent sadness, hopelessness, guilt, lack of interest in hobbies, fatigue or trouble sleeping, nausea, shaking, restlessness, and nervous jitters. 

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Effexor uses

Effexor is used in the treatment of depression, as well as in the treatment of anxiety disorders, panic disorders, social phobia, and major depressive disorder.

There is also evidence of venlafaxine use in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Studies also note that venlafaxine may be useful in treating hot flashes associated with menopause or chemotherpy treatment.

It is also sometimes prescribed for nerve pain in those with diabetes, migraines and tension headaches, as well as chronic fatigue syndrome. 

How Effexor works

When levels of serotonin and norepinephrine are too low, people can experience depression, anxiety, low energy, as well as nerve and muscle pain.

As a SNRI, a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, Effexor increases the level of mood-regulating neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine, in the brain.

These neurotransmitters help regulate mood and energy.

Venlafaxine prevents serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake, or its reabsorption, leaving more of these neurotransmitters in your system. 

What the Research Says about Effexor for Anxiety

Various studies show Effexor, or venlafaxine, to be an effective and tolerable treatment of anxiety disorders and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

It can help with feelings of worry, muscular tension, and cognitive dysfunction related to severe anxiety, which are all associated with anxiety disorders.

Studies continue to show that in both short and long term uses, it may be a good choice for anxiety that occurs both alone or with depression. 

Other Treatments for Anxiety

Anxiety comes in many forms and depending on the kind of disorder you have, medication is not a first-line treatment.

Different treatment options may work best depending on the types of symptoms you experience.

Many of these treatment options can be done in tandem to help feel your best.

Medications

There are a number of different antidepressant medications available for anxiety.

Speak with your healthcare provider to determine which medication may work best for you given your symptoms, current use of prescription drugs and other medications, medical history, and possible side effects. 

In addition to SNRIs, like Effexor and Cymbalta (which work on serotonin and norepinephrine), a class of other medications known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are also commonly prescribed for anxiety.

These medications, like Zoloft (sertraline), Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Celexa (citalopram), and Lexapro (escitalopram), block the reuptake of serotonin in the brain.

SSRIs are shown to be effective and tolerable options for those with anxiety. 

Other types of medications prescribed for anxiety include MAOIs, like Parnate (tranylcypromine) and Nardil; Tricyclic anxiety medications, like Tofranil (imipramine) and Pamelor (nortriptyline); Beta Blockers, like Tenormin (atenolol) and Inderal (propranolol); as well as benzodiazepine anxiolytics like Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Valium (diazepam).

They work to minimize symptoms that may disrupt your day to day life when you live with anxiety. 

Therapies

Different types of therapies can be helpful in understanding the causes and triggers of your anxiety, and assist with helping explore methods of management for your anxiety.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the mostly widely used therapies for anxiety disorders.

The goal is to understand the thoughts that lead to your feelings or behaviors and replace those with realistic thoughts and effective coping mechanisms.

This type of therapy can help manage panic, concern, and fear. 

Another type of therapy is called exposure therapy, which is used for anxiety disorders like seasonal affective disorder (SAD), certain phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The goal with exposure therapy is to conquer what you are afraid of by slowly introducing the object or situation into the sessions.

This can be done through imagination, real life exposure, or virtual reality. 

Other alternative therapies include art therapy and psychoanalytic therapy (or the “Freudian model”).

There are a variety of support groups that some may find helpful.

Talk to your doctor about which model of therapy might be right for you, your symptoms, and your lifestyle. 

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes can help minimize symptoms associated with anxiety and depression disorders.

For example, exercise can help ease anxiety and change brain chemistry by decreasing muscle tension and increasing the availability of anti-anxiety neurochemicals, like serotonin and dopamine. In addition to movement, other wellness practices like meditation can help ease anxiety. 

Avoiding or limiting alcohol can help with anxiety and depression.

Alcohol can also disturb sleep, which is important for good mental health.

Caffeine may also increase anxiety.

Finally, complex carbohydrates are thought to possibly increase serotonin in your brain, so try to eat rich complex carbs, such as whole grains, but reduce consumption of simple carbs and sugary foods if possible. 

Effexor Side Effects

As with many medications, Effexor may cause side effects.

Most people only experience mild side effects, often in the first week of treatment, and your doctor can prescribe a low dose that builds up slowly to help avoid side effects. 

Common side effects

Common side effects of Effexor include:

Contact your doctor if you have any of these side effects, especially if they do not go away after extended use. 

Severe side effects

Although it is rare, a serious allergic reaction is possible.

Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

Venlafaxine can also increase blood pressure, so it is important to monitor blood pressure readings and get that checked regularly. 

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How to Take Effexor

Effexor comes in many different doses, and usually your doctor will begin medication at a low dose and gradually increase it to reduce the risk of side effects.

The recommended starting dose is one 37.5 mg long release capsule of Effexor daily that can be gradually increased over time if needed.

Common doses usually range anywhere from 75-225 mg depending on the treatment plan. 

How long does Effexor take to work?

It can take a number of weeks to notice symptom improvements after you start Effexor.

Continue to take the medication as prescribed and do not stop without consulting your doctor.

If you do not feel benefits after several weeks, you can discuss alternative medications or doses with a medical professional. 

Effexor Precautions

There are a number of things to consider when beginning Effexor.

Be sure to tell your doctor about all the other medications and over the counter supplements, both prescription and nonprescription, that you are taking daily.

Effexor can interact with certain medications, including blood thinners, and increase your chance of bleeding or bruising.

It is best to avoid alcohol and  not operate heavy machinery when you are taking venlafaxine, as it can make you drowsy. 

It is always best to take medication as prescribed and work with your doctor if you want to stop.

They will likely suggest tapering yourself off the medication slowly to prevent unwanted withdrawal symptoms

In rare cases, medications that increase serotonin can cause serotonin syndrome, which can occur if there is too much serotonin circulating in the bloodstream.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any signs of serotonin syndrome, including hallucinations, sweating, fast heart rate, uncontrollable twitching or restlessness amongst other symptoms. 

Antidepressants can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts, especially in children and adolescents.

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 Effexor (Venlafaxine)?

K Health has clinicians standing by 24/7 to evaluate your symptoms and determine if Effexor 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 Effexor work for anxiety?
Effexor may take several weeks before you begin to see notable differences in anxiety symptoms.
Is an SNRI like Effexor or an SSRI like Zoloft better for anxiety?
Both are common and effective options for treating anxiety. Some find SSRIs like Zoloft to have more tolerable symptoms, as SNRIs increase norepinephrine levels while others prefer the effect of an SNRI. If you are dealing with chronic pain or both depression and anxiety an SNRI may be a better option.
How much Effexor should I take for anxiety?
Effexor doses depend on your medical condition. Commonly, a doctor will prescribe anywhere from 75-225 mg daily for generalized anxiety disorders. Those with social anxiety disorder may receive a prescription for 75 mg daily, and panic disorder treatment ranges from 37.5-225 mg daily.
What are the most common side effects of Effexor?
Common side effects of Effexor include dizziness, blurred vision, fatigue, dry mouth, gastrointestinal issues, decreased sex drive, weight loss, and sweating, amongst others.

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.

Sabina Rebis, MD

Dr. Sabina Rebis is a board certified family medicine physician with over 5 years of primary care and urgent care experience.

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