Lexapro is one of the most frequently prescribed antidepressants in the United States. According to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), over 27 million people received a prescription for escitalopram (Lexapro’s generic name) in 2016. Because of Lexapro’s safety in relieving depression and elevating mood, Doctors often prescribe this medication for patients newly diagnosed with depression. However, many ask “how long does it take for Lexapro to work?” We’ll break down the side effects of Lexapro and more. 

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What Is Lexapro?

Lexapro, known by its generic name escitalopram, is a medication in the SSRI class. These drugs aim to adjust the balance of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter—a chemical messenger—that helps regulate numerous physiological and psychological processes, including mood, anxiety, and overall sense of well-being.

How Long Does It Take For Lexapro To Work?

The length of time it takes for Lexapro (escitalopram) to work can vary from person to person, and also depends on the condition it’s being used to treat.

For depression, it’s common for patients to begin noticing improvements in their symptoms within 1 to 2 weeks of starting the medication. However, it typically takes about 4 to 6 weeks (or possibly longer) of consistent use to experience the full benefits.

For anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), studies have shown that most patients start to see a reduction in their anxiety levels after 1 to 2 weeks, but again, the full effects may not be apparent until after 4 to 6 weeks or more.

Remember, these are average time frames. Some people may experience changes sooner, while others may take a bit longer. It’s important to discuss your individual situation and expectations with your healthcare provider to get the most accurate information.

Also, keep in mind that it’s crucial to continue taking Lexapro even if you start to feel better, unless instructed otherwise by your doctor. Stopping the medication abruptly can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

How Does Lexapro Work?

As an SSRI, Lexapro works by increasing the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in the brain.

Serotonin is often referred to as the “feel good” neurotransmitter because it helps regulate mood and anxiety. In some cases of depression and anxiety, there’s an imbalance of serotonin in the brain, with levels being lower than they should be.

When Lexapro is taken, it blocks the reuptake of serotonin into nerve cells. This process leaves more serotonin available in the synaptic gap between neurons, thereby boosting its activity and helping to restore a more balanced mood.

It’s important to note that while the action of Lexapro happens fairly quickly after the medication is taken, the therapeutic benefits such as improved mood and reduced anxiety usually take several weeks to become apparent. This is because the increased availability of serotonin sets off a series of reactions and adaptations in the brain that take time to fully manifest as noticeable symptom relief.

Also, Lexapro doesn’t cure depression or anxiety disorders; instead, it helps to manage the symptoms. This means that if a person stops taking the medication, their symptoms might return. Therefore, it’s essential to continue taking mental health medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider, even if you start to feel better.

What Will I Feel When I Start Lexapro?

During the initial week of Lexapro use, patients may experience a range of side effects as their bodies adjust to the new medication. Common side effects include nausea, dry mouth, trouble sleeping, constipation, tiredness, drowsiness, sweating, and decreased sexual desire or ability.

Most of these side effects are temporary and should subside as your body acclimates to the medication. However, if they persist or become worse, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider.

How Do I Know If The Lexapro Is Working?

You’ll know Lexapro is working when you see a significant reduction in your depressive or anxiety symptoms. This might include feeling more positive, experiencing less worry, having more energy, sleeping better, and finding more enjoyment in daily activities. Remember, these changes are often subtle at first and become more noticeable over time.

SSRI's: How Do They Compare?

SSRIs are often the first line of treatment for depression and anxiety due to their generally favorable side-effect profile and safety in overdose compared to other classes of psychiatric medications. Other SSRIs include Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Celexa (citalopram), and Paxil (paroxetine).

Lexapro vs Zoloft

Lexapro and Zoloft are both popular SSRIs used to treat depression and anxiety. Both drugs are generally well-tolerated but have slightly different side effects. Lexapro is less likely to cause dry mouth, constipation, and weight gain, however, Zoloft is less likely to cause sleep problems.

Some studies suggest that Lexapro might be more effective for treating depression, while Zoloft may be slightly more effective for anxiety. However, the differences are small, and both medications are generally considered effective for both conditions.

Lexapro vs Prozac

Both Prozac and Lexapro are effective, but they differ in their half-lives—the amount of time it takes for the body to eliminate half of a drug.

Prozac has a longer half-life than Lexapro, which can be advantageous for individuals who might miss a dose, as it stays in the system longer. However, this also means that side effects or withdrawal symptoms may last longer with Prozac.

Lexapro vs Celexa

Celexa (citalopram) is a closely related drug to Lexapro, as they are both derived from the same molecule. Lexapro is often described as a more “pure” form of Celexa, as it only contains the active form of the molecule.

However, both drugs are generally well-tolerated and effective for treating depression and anxiety.

Lexapro vs Effector

Unlike Lexapro, Effexor (venlafaxine) is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), meaning it works on two neurotransmitters: serotonin and norepinephrine. This can make Effexor more effective for certain individuals or conditions, particularly those associated with low energy or motivation.

However, Effexor is more likely to cause high blood pressure, especially at higher doses. It also has a more challenging withdrawal process, making it important to taper the medication slowly under a doctor’s supervision.

Can You Drink Alcohol on Lexapro?

It’s generally recommended to avoid alcohol while taking Lexapro, as it can increase the medication’s sedative effects, leading to increased drowsiness and decreased motor skills. Additionally, alcohol can exacerbate the symptoms of depression and anxiety, counteracting the potential benefits of Lexapro and contributing to a dual diagnosis disorder.

Find Mental Health Treatment in Nashville Today!

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety, help is available. At Arbor Wellness, we’ve helped countless individuals combat the symptoms of depression and anxiety and create lasting change in their lives through medication management, psychiatry, therapy, and more. Learn more about our mental health programs in Nashville.

Don’t hesitate to contact us immediately. In the case of a medical emergency please contact 911 or visit your local emergency department.

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