Lexapro is the brand name for Escitalopram. It is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) (1) meaning that it works by blocking the serotonin in your brain from being reabsorbed, so your brain releases more. Serotonin is a chemical that is known to enhance your mood.
Like with most other substances, you can become addicted. Lexapro withdrawal symptoms may occur when you stop taking the drug.
Escitalopram/Lexapro is most commonly used to treat the major depressive disorder as well as anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Lexapro is only available on prescription, and you may be prescribed this medication if:
- Your mood is consistently low
- You always feel sad
- You are frequently tearful
- You feel worthless or hopeless
- You feel guilty if you experience any joy or happiness
- You have lost interest in activities that you once enjoyed
- There has been a significant change in your eating patterns
- You are eating more or less than usual.
- You lack energy
- You find it difficult to concentrate or focus
- You have thoughts of suicide or self-harm
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above but have not spoken to a medical professional about how you are feeling, you should book an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible.
What are the Possible Side Effects of Escitalopram?
The side effects of taking Escitalopram or Lexapro can vary from very common to very rare.
The most common side effects of Lexapro include nausea, headaches, dry mouth, menstrual irregularities, sweating, rashes, tinnitus, fatigue and insomnia. These symptoms, while unpleasant, often improve within a few weeks of taking the medication.
Sexual side effects such as the inability to reach orgasm are not believed to improve over time. If you do experience these symptoms after taking Lexapro, it is a good idea to visit your healthcare provider who can advise you on the best course of action to tackle these symptoms.
More uncommon symptoms include alopecia, sensitivity to light, fainting episodes, seizures and suicidal behaviours.
Other side effects such as low platelet count, nipple discharge, serotonin syndrome, severe cutaneous adverse reactions (2) and hepatitis and very rare.
How to Take Lexapro?
Lexapro is an oral medication that comes in both liquid form and pill form.
The dosage you are prescribed will depend on the condition being treated and the severity of your symptoms.
Some people will need to take the medication with food, while others may need to take it on an empty stomach. Your healthcare provider will instruct you how to best take your medication as well as when it is best to take it, for example, first thing in the morning with food.
It is important to take the medication as directed.
Is Lexapro Addictive?
Lexapro and other SSRIs are not thought to cause a physical addiction; however, a psychological addiction is entirely possible due to the positive feelings users will associate with taking the medication.
When users begin to crave the high that taking Lexapro gives them, they may begin to abuse the drug and stop following their doctor’s instructions on how to safely take Lexapro.
While an addiction to this medication is not common, there are certain indicators that you may have developed an addiction, such as:
- You often take more than the recommended dose
- You take Lexapro which was not prescribed to you
- You buy Lexapro illegally
- You take Lexapro even though your depression or anxiety is no longer an issue.
If you fear that you have developed an addiction to Lexapro, you should contact a medical healthcare professional as soon as possible who will be able to create a plan to wean you off the medication safely.
Is it Safe to Take Lexapro Long-Term?
Lexapro and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are safe to take for long-term use as long as the medication is taken responsibly and you follow your doctor’s instructions.
Many people continue to take anti-depressants for months or even years after their symptoms of depression or anxiety have gone away, this is called maintenance therapy (3) and it is believed to reduce the risk of relapsing back into a depressive state.
Is it Safe to Take Lexapro During Pregnancy?
Studies show that taking Lexapro and other SSRIs during pregnancy causes no major issues of concern except for some instances of low birth weight (3).
If you have been taking Lexapro before getting pregnant, it is usually considered safe to continue taking it. However, it is best to speak to your healthcare provider to be sure.
Some studies have shown that in some cases of mothers taking SSRIs during late pregnancy, the baby can show some signs of SSRI withdrawal shortly after birth with behavioural issues lasting into adulthood (4).
If you feel you need to take Lexapro during your pregnancy, again, you should speak to your healthcare provider who will go through your options with you and help you decide whether you need to take an SSRI such as Lexapro.
Lexapro Withdrawal: What happens if I stop taking it?
As with many medications, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the drug.
Because Lexapro is an SSRI, abrupt withdrawal causes a condition known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome which can cause flu-like symptoms, nausea and cocoordinationssues (4).
While these symptoms are relatively common and unconcerning to many doctors, people who have experienced these side effects have reported that they felt very ill during this period.
How Long Do Symptoms of Lexapro Withdrawal Last?
Unfortunately, the Lexapro withdrawal symptoms are different for everyone, and the length of time the withdrawal symptoms last will differ for each person as well.
Withdrawal symptoms of Lexapro can begin within a few hours of your last dose. However, some people have reported that their withdrawal symptoms did not begin until a week later.
Most people find that the Lexapro withdrawal symptoms wear off after two or three weeks, however, they may last longer for some people.
Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms and Signs
Lexapro and other SSRI medications can cause different withdrawal symptoms in different people.
SSRI withdrawal symptoms were once believed to be easy to deal with, however, recent studies have found that almost half of the people who experience withdrawal symptoms from Lexapro and other SSRIs describe them as severe (5).
A troubling symptom of SSRI withdrawal is known as ‘brain zaps‘. This is when the person feels sudden and sharp shooting pains in their brain sometimes described as lightning bolts. These zaps are caused by the nerves in the brain that are used to reabsorb serotonin ‘waking up’ after being out of use as a result of the medication (6).
Most Common Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms
Some of the most commonly reported symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal include:
- Short-term memory loss
- Concentration issues
- Muscle pain
Less Common Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms
Some less common symptoms are:
- Problems with your jaw – including chewing and talking issues
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Frequent headaches
- Anxiety and mood disorders
- Vivid dreams or nightmares
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, or if you are worried about the side effects, you should contact your GP immediately.
Coping & Relief
If you have abused the drug or failed to follow your doctor’s instructions on taking Lexapro, quitting cold turkey will make it more likely that you will experience some of the withdrawal symptoms spoken about above.
However, it is possible to experience Lexapro withdrawal symptoms even if you have taken the medication as advised.
Your healthcare provider will be able to work with you to create a plan to wean you off the medication in a safe way. This may involve weaning you off all medications entirely or transitioning you to a combination of medicines that will best suit your needs.
 National Library of Medicine – Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554406/
 National Library of Medicine – Treatment for Severe Cutaneous Adverse Reactions – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5763067/
 National Library of Medicine – Pregnancy outcomes following use of escitalopram: a prospective comparative cohort study – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22075232/
 National Library of Medicine – Neonatal Antidepressant Exposure has Lasting Effects on Behaviour and Serotonin Circuitry – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3118509/
 National Institute for Health and Care Research – Almost half of those on long-term antidepressants can stop without relapsing – https://evidence.nihr.ac.uk/alert/almost-half-people-long-term-antidepressants-stop-without-relapse/
 American Family Physician – Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome – https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2006/0801/p449.html
 National Library of Medicine – A review of the management of antidepressant discontinuation symptoms – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4722507/
 National Library of Medicine – Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors for Pain Control: Premise and Promise – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2811866/