Lexapro for anxiety (A brief Guide)

In this blog post about Lexapro for anxiety, we will also discuss what Lexapro is, side effects and what happens if someone overdoses. 

Lexapro for anxiety

Lexapro is the brand name for the chemical component escitalopram (generic).

This is classed as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) prescribed for depression and generalized anxiety disorder treatment.

However, there is scientific evidence in a study performed in 2017, that some doctors actually prescribe Lexapro off-label to treat conditions such as bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), migraines and chronic pain. 

How is lexapro supposed to work?

The chemical component in Lexapro (Escitalopram) acts by enhancing the activity of a neurotransmitter called serotonin.

This medicine stops the serotonin from being reabsorbed back into the neuron helping to prolong the effect over time and improve your mood, regulate your emotional responses,  and reduce your symptoms.

This medicine won’t make you feel happy instantaneously, it will take some time before you can start noticing any changes.

Everyone is different and their reaction to the drug can vary.

You will usually need to take escitalopram for a couple of months, at least 6 months after you start feeling any better and keep taking it for as long as your doctor instructs you to.

 If you feel discouraged because you haven’t noticed any changes do not stop the medication, contact your doctor and let him/her know how you feel.

Side effects of Lexapro for anxiety

The common side effects according to MedicineNet for Lexapro include:

  • agitation or restlessness,
  • blurred vision,
  • diarrhea,
  • difficulty sleeping,
  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth,
  • fever,
  • frequent urination,
  • headache,
  • indigestion,
  • nausea,
  • increased or decreased appetite,
  • increased sweating,
  • sexual difficulties (decreased sexual ability or desire, ejaculatory delay),
  • taste alterations, tremor (shaking), and
  • weight changes.

Possible serious side effects of Lexapro for anxiety

  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Suicidal thinking and behavior
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Seizures
  • Manic episodes
  • Confusion
  • High fever
  • Slurred speech
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Low sodium
  • Angle closure glaucoma.

What happens if I stop taking Lexapro for anxiety?

It is not recommended to suddenly stop taking your medication because you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • dizziness,
  • tingling,
  • tiredness,
  • vivid dreams,
  • irritability, or
  • poor mood.

Talk to you doctor so he/she can gradually start reducing the dose to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

FDA Black Box Warning

Antidepressants have been associated with the risk of suicidal thoughts and suicidal behavior in children and adolescents with depression and other psychiatric disorders evidenced in short-term studies. 

In contrast, there was no increase in short-term studies for the risk of suicidality with antidepressants compared to placebo in adults beyond 24 years of age.

Moreover, in adults 65 years or older, there was a decreased risk of suicidality with antidepressants compared to the placebo group. 

Anyone taking antidepressants should be closely monitored for worsening of symptoms, suicidality or unusual changes in their behavior.

How do Antidepressants work?

Antidepressants act in your body by prolonging or boosting the activity of neurochemicals such as noradrenaline and serotonin, which are thought to be involved in mood regulation. 

There are several different types of antidepressants, and they are:

  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • tricyclics and tricyclic-related drugs
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) 
  • other antidepressants

How much should I take?

According to MedicineNet and Verywell Mind, the usual starting dose of Lexapro for treating depression in adults and adolescents is 10 mg once a day in the morning or evenings but your doctor may start with a lower dose.

The dosage can be increased to 20 mg once a day after 3 weeks if needed.

What happens if I miss a dose?

If you forget to take your dose, don’t panic.

Take it as soon as you remember but if  the time for your next dose is getting closer then discard the one you forgot and take the next one at the usual time.

Do not double dose to compensate for the one that was forgotten.

When will I see the benefits?

You may not notice any benefits or see any changes before week 4 of the treatment.

A daily dose of 29 mg may not be more effective than a 10 mg dose daily for treating depression.

The dose for treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder usually is 10 mg once daily.

Drug interaction

Laxapro can interact with other drugs such as:

  • All drugs classed as SSRIs, including Lexapro, should not be combined with monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor class type of antidepressants such as isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), selegiline (Eldepryl) and procarbazine (Matulane) or other drugs that inhibit monoamine oxidase such as linezolid (Zyvox) and intravenous methylene blue.
  • Combining these drugs can cause symptoms such as confusion, high blood pressure, high fevers, tremor or muscle rigidity, and increased activity.
  • It is recommended to wait at least 14 days after discontinuing Lexapro before starting to take an MAO inhibitor. Conversely, a waiting time of at least 14 days after discontinuing an MAO before starting Lexapro.
  • Similar reactions occur when SSRIs are combined with other drugs that increase serotonin in the brain, for example tryptophan, St. John’s wort, meperidine (Demerol), lithium (Lithobid, Eskalith), triptans (for example, sumatriptan [Imitrex, Alsuma]), and tramadol (Ultram)
  • Use of selective serotonin inhibitors may increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding in patients taking warfarin (Jantoven, Coumadin), aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and other drugs that cause bleeding.

Serotonin syndrome symptoms

Serotonin syndrome causes symptoms like these within a few hours after you take too much of a certain drug:

  • Fast heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Large pupils
  • Sweating
  • Shivering
  • Shaking
  • Muscle spasms, jerky movements
  • Anxiety, restlessness, nervousness
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

Severe cases cause the symptoms above, plus:

  • A high fever
  • Seizures
  • Trouble breathing
  • Uneven heartbeat
  • Stiff muscles

Some of these symptoms can be very serious.

If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor right away or go to an emergency room.

Low salt levels

Lexapro can reduce your body’s salt levels. This is more likely to occur in seniors, people taking water pills or dehydrated.

The side may include symptoms such as:

  • headache
  • confusion
  • trouble concentrating
  • thinking or memory problems
  • weakness
  • unsteadiness that can lead to falls
  • seizures

Manic episodes

Lexapro may cause for you to have a manic episode if you have bipolar disorder.

If you take Lexapro without any other drug, this may contribute to trigger the manic episodes..

According to The University of Chicago, symptoms can include:

  • greatly increased energy
  • severe sleeping trouble
  • racing thoughts
  • reckless behavior
  • unusually grand ideas
  • excessive happiness or irritability
  • talking quickly or more than normal

Who should not take Lexapro?

  • If you are hypersensitive to escitalopram oxalate you should not take Lexapro because it can carry a severe allergic reaction.
  • The effectiveness in children younger than 18 years hasn’t been established and Lexapro is not generally recommended for children under the age of 12.
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should be careful when taking lexapro, discuss this with your doctor for additional recommendations.
  • The side effects of the medication can be more severe in older adults. In this case your doctor should monitor the dose and adjust if necessary to reduce the risk of side effects.

Can I take alcohol if using Lexapro?

Try avoiding or limiting your alcohol consumption when you are taking Lexapro since mixing it with alcohol can reduce the effectivity of the treatment and may increase the chance of toxicity and serious medical complications.

What happens if I overdose?

If you or someone has overdose and experiencing symptoms such as passing out or trouble breathing, call emergency services or go to the nearest hospital seeking for medical attention.

Why is this blog post about lexapro for anxiety important?

If you are considering taking Lexapro or you have started your treatment, it is extremely important to be aware of what is happening in your body when you take it, how is your medicine able to help you fight back the symptoms.

Additionally, it is necessary to stay informed and be aware of any possible side effects, warning symptoms and signs to be prepared for any emergencies that may arise.

If you have additional questions or concerns is important to share them with your doctor since he/she can give you their medical advise on the matter.

Please feel free to comment about the content of this blog in the comments section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Lexapro for anxiety

How long does it take for Lexapro to work for anxiety?

Lexapro may take 1-2 weeks before you can start noticing any changes in your mood, appetite or energy levels.

This early improvement can be an important sign that the medication is working.

If you feel the symptoms are getting worse, contact your doctor. 

What are the most common side effects of Lexapro?

The most common side effects of lexapro are drowsiness, dizziness, sleep related problems such as insomnia, nausea, upset stomach, gas, heartburn or constipation.

What is the best antidepressant for anxiety?

It depends on your condition and how you react to the medicine, not everyone reacts the same and not all the drugs will work in any case.

However, the most used antidepressants for anxiety are Prozac or Sarafem (fluoxetine), Celexa (Citalopram), Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil, Paxeva or Brisdelle (Paroxetine) and Lexapro (Escitalopram).

What is the best time of day to take Lexapro?

People usually take it in the morning or at night once a day with food. 

Does Escitalopram cause weight gain?

Escitalopram can cause weight gain as a side effect due to the increase in your serotonin levels.

This can result in an increased appetite which will make you eat more causing some weight gain.

We recommend to exercise regularly and eat healthy to avoid the weight gain.

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