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Does Luvox (fluvoxamine) help with OCD?

Does Luvox (fluvoxamine) help with OCD?

Reviewed by:
Austin Lin, MD
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June 22, 2024
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If you struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), you know what it’s like to experience distressing obsessions, unwanted intrusive thoughts, and time-consuming compulsions. OCD symptoms can fill you with anxiety and get in the way of your day-to-day life.  

Taking medication is one way to help reduce OCD symptoms. Luvox, the brand name for fluvoxamine, is one commonly prescribed medication for OCD treatment. If you’re considering medication for OCD, you might be curious if Luvox is the right choice for you.

Read on to learn more about taking Luvox for OCD.

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How does Luvox work?

Luvox (fluvoxamine) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). SSRIs impact serotonin, a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger in the brain. Low levels of serotonin are thought to be linked to certain mental health conditions.  

SSRIs work by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin. This means they block the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain. In turn, more serotonin is available. This additional serotonin aids in carrying messages throughout the brain, improving communication between nerve cells (neurons), and, in turn, helping relieve symptoms.  

Can you take Luvox for OCD?

Yes, you can take Luvox for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder even though it’s an antidepressant. Luvox’s only FDA-approved indication is for treating OCD in adults and children over the age of eight.

Clinical trials and various studies have proven that Luvox is effective at treating OCD obsessions and compulsions. However, every individual is different, and although Luvox might work very well for one person, it might not be the most effective medication for the next person.

Luvox dosages

The FDA recommends starting at 50 mg of Luvox daily for adults. Then, every 4 to 7 days, you will likely increase the dose by 50 mg. The max dose is 300 mg daily. Your doctor will assess your response to the medication as your dosage changes to determine your most effective dose. If the daily dose is over 100 mg, the dose should be taken in divided doses (two doses throughout the day). Your doctor will advise exactly how to do this.  

Usually, they will try to get you to the highest dose of Luvox that brings you the most relief but with the fewest side effects.  

Can you take Luvox for depression?

It’s common for OCD to occur alongside depression. However, Luvox is not FDA-approved to treat depression. It may be used “off-label” for depression, but this isn’t common since there are other SSRIs that are more effective for alleviating depressive symptoms. A psychiatrist will help diagnose whether you separately have a depression  or if your depressive symptoms are secondary to untreated OCD. Luvox may be helpful for both.

Other SSRIs that are FDA-approved for depression are:

  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)  

On top of SSRIs, there are plenty of other depression medication options, including:

  • SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) like Effexor (venlafaxine)
  • TCAs (tricyclic antidepressants)
  • MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors)
  • Atypical antidepressants

What else is Luvox used for?

While Luvox is only FDA-approved for OCD, there are some off-label uses. There is some research to back up the efficacy of Luvox for these conditions, but still, other medications are typically a first choice.

Off-label uses of Luvox include:

  • Panic disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Pathological gambling
  • Body dysmorphic disorder

How long does it take Luvox to work?

Luvox doesn’t work right away. Since you’ll start at a low dose, it takes time to work your way up to an effective therapeutic dose.

Once you’re at a therapeutic dose, it still takes time for your brain to adjust and to notice major improvements. You might see some minor changes within a few weeks, but research shows that when it comes to it takes longer for OCD, it takes longer to see a positive response and often you may need higher doses of SSRIs, too.. It may take 8 to 12 weeks for clinically significant improvements to occur.    

If you’re starting Luvox for OCD, be patient and remember that it’s going to take time. If it’s been 8-12 weeks and you don’t feel any relief, tell your doctor. In this case, you might have to re-evaluate the treatment plan and consider a different OCD medication. You should also consider ERP therapy, which is a first-line treatment for OCD.  

What happens if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose of Luvox, don’t panic. You can take the missed dose as soon as you remember to unless it’s very close to the time of your next dose. In this case, don’t take it. You should never take a double dose to make up for missing the previous dose.  

Call your doctor or pharmacy for guidance if you aren’t sure whether you should take your missed dose or simply wait for the next dose.

What are the common side effects of Luvox?

Like all SSRIs, Luvox comes along with the risk of adverse effects.

Possible Luvox side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble sleeping (falling asleep or staying asleep)
  • Increased sweating
  • Nervousness
  • Stuffy nose
  • Changes to taste
  • Sexual problems (lowered sex drive or sexual dysfunction)  

These side effects will likely be worse when you first start taking the medication and subside with time. Let your provider know if your side effects don’t get better or if they worsen.  

Although serious side effects are rare, it’s important to be aware of them. Potential serious effects are:

  • Serotonin syndrome: This is when your body has dangerously high levels of serotonin. It can be mild or severe, even fatal in some cases. Some early signs could be dilated pupils, diarrhea, heavy sweating, and agitation. Severe symptoms include high fever, irregular heartbeat, seizures, and unconsciousness.
  • Suicidality risk: SSRIs like Luvox come along with the risk of new or worsening suicidal thoughts or behaviors. This risk is even higher in people younger than 24 years old.  
  • Hyponatremia: This is when you have dangerously low sodium levels. Warning signs include weakness, trouble with memory, confusion, and feeling unsteady.  
  • Abnormal bleeding: Luvox can increase the risk of abnormal bleeding. The risk is higher if you’re taking medications like naproxen, aspirin, or other blood thinners.  

If you have any of the above symptoms, which could be a sign of a serious complication, call your doctor immediately.  

This isn’t an exhaustive list of all potential serious side effects and risks. Discuss your concerns with your doctor, and always report any troubling side effects.  

What else to know before taking Luvox

Aside from side effects and risks, there’s still more to consider before you take Luvox. Here are three important considerations.  

Drug interactions

Examples of drugs that interact with Luvox are:

  • Benzodiazepines, especially Valium (diazepam)
  • Antipsychotics (such as clozapine and thioridazine)
  • Methadone
  • Mexiletine
  • Ramelteon
  • Theophylline
  • Warfarin
  • Other drugs that increase serotonin

Always tell your prescriber about all over-the-counter and prescription medications and supplements you take to ensure that Luvox is safe for you and that there aren’t any major drug interactions.

Bipolar disorder risk

If you have bipolar disorder co-occurring with OCD, Luvox could increase your risk of having a manic or hypomanic episode. It can also increase risk for bipolar depression. SSRIs in bipolar disorder have the risk of destabilizing mood (unless a you are taking a mood stabilizer concurrently, then the risk is reduced) Let your psychiatrist know if you have a family history of bipolar disorder or if you have previously been diagnosed with bipolar.  

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Luvox is a pregnancy category C drug. This means that we don’t have enough hard evidence in humans, but animal studies show that the drug poses risk to the fetus. Additionally, newborns of mothers who took Luvox during pregnancy have faced risks such as needing longer hospitalization, tube feeding, or breathing support.  

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, your doctor will weigh the benefits and risks with you. In some cases, the mental health benefits of taking Luvox while pregnant could outweigh the potential risks. You should discuss this with both your psychiatrist and OB/GYN.

Additionally, if you’re breastfeeding, Luvox passes through breast milk. This can potentially harm the baby. Discuss this risk with your baby’s pediatrician and your psychiatrist. Again, the benefits might outweigh the risks. It’s all on a case-by-case basis.  

Is Luvox right for me?

If you have OCD and you’re seeking medical treatment, Luvox could be right for you. Ultimately, a psychiatrist will be your best guide to determine what OCD medication is right for you, whether or not that’s Luvox.  

If Luvox isn’t the best fit for you, for whatever reason, a psychiatrist can educate you on other medications that are FDA-approved for OCD. Other SSRIs commonly used for OCD are:

  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)

SSRIs are typically the first line of treatment. However, an older tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) called Anafranil (clomipramine) may be prescribed in certain situations or if SSRIs aren’t giving enough symptom relief.  

If you’re looking for a psychiatrist to treat your OCD, consider Talkiatry.  

We’re a national psychiatry practice that treats a variety of mental health conditions, including OCD and co-occurring conditions. We provide virtual, in-network services so you can get the care you need from the comfort of your home. To get started, complete our free online assessment to get matched with a psychiatrist.  

The information in this article is for education and informational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

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Call the number on your insurance card and ask about your plan’s coverage for outpatient psychiatric services.

How does Talkiatry compare to face-to-face treatment?

For most patients, Talkiatry treatment is just as effective as in-person psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association, 2021), and much more convenient. That said, we don’t currently provide treatment for schizophrenia, primary eating disorder treatment, or Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.

What kind of treatment does Talkiatry provide?

At Talkiatry, we specialize in psychiatry, meaning the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Your psychiatrist will meet with you virtually on a schedule you set together, devise a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and preferences, and work with you to adjust your plan as you meet your goals.

If your treatment plan includes medication, your psychiatrist will prescribe and manage it. If needed, your psychiatrist can also refer you to a Talkiatry therapist.

What's the difference between a therapist and psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are doctors who have specialized training in diagnosing and treating complex mental health conditions through medication management. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or similar, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.  

Other signs that you should see a psychiatrist include:  

  • Your primary care doctor or another doctor thinks you may benefit from the services of a psychiatrist and provides a referral    
  • You are interested in taking medication to treat a mental health condition  
  • Your symptoms are severe enough to regularly interfere with your everyday life

The term “therapist” can apply to a range of professionals including social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychoanalysts. Working with a therapist generally involves regular talk therapy sessions where you discuss your feelings, problem-solving strategies, and coping mechanisms to help with your condition.

Who can prescribe medication?

All our psychiatrists (and all psychiatrists in general) are medical doctors with additional training in mental health. They can prescribe any medication they think can help their patients. In order to find out which medications might be appropriate, they need to conduct a full evaluation. At Talkiatry, first visits are generally scheduled for 60 minutes or more to give your psychiatrist time to learn about you, work on a treatment plan, and discuss any medications that might be included.

Austin Lin, MD

Dr. Austin Lin is a double board-certified adult and addiction psychiatrist who has been in practice for over 9 years. At the center of Dr. Lin’s clinical approach is a strong emphasis on establishing trust and using a collaborative approach to help patients develop an individualized and cohesive plan so that they are able to achieve their goals.

Dr. Lin's practice focuses on medication management. Typically, he offers this in conjunction with supportive therapy, motivational interviewing, and/or cognitive behavioral therapy in 30-minute follow-up visits. Occasionally, Dr. Lin may recommend that additional therapy is needed and ask that you bring a therapist into your care team in order to provide the best outcome.

Dr. Lin received his medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. He went on to complete his residency in psychiatry at Harvard South Shore, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, where he served as Chief Resident and earned his 360° Professionalism award. He then had additional training in Addiction Psychiatry through his fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. After completing training, Dr. Lin has worked as an Addiction Psychiatrist and Director of Adult Services in the Trauma and Resilience Center (TRC) at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). He specialized in treating patients with a history of depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use disorders.

Dr. Lin has held an academic appointment at UTHealth, and he has spent his professional career supervising and teaching medical students and psychiatry residents.

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