Lexapro: Side Effects, Withdrawals, and FAQs

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

May 25, 2023

Table of Contents

Lexapro is a popular antidepressant medication that can cause side effects such as nausea, headaches, and sexual dysfunction. 

It is important to discuss any concerns about side effects with a healthcare provider. Additionally, abruptly stopping Lexapro can lead to withdrawal symptoms that may include flu-like symptoms, mood changes, and electric shock sensations in the body. 

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Gradual tapering of the medication is typically recommended to avoid these withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can occur if the medication is stopped abruptly, including dizziness, irritability, and insomnia. 

FAQs about Lexapro include its potential interactions with other medications and its effectiveness for different mental health conditions. It is important to talk to a healthcare provider before starting or stopping any medication.

What is Lexapro?

Lexapro (generically escitalopram) is an antidepressant from the group of drugs known as SSRI inhibitors.  It is used to treat major depression and general anxiety disorder by balancing levels of serotonin in the brain.  Higher levels of serotonin have been linked to increased mood, and lower levels of anxiety.  

Antidepressants aren’t new to the market, they have been around for decades.  However, in the past 20 or so years, with the boom of social media, and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic, antidepressants have become even more popular amongst our evolving society.  From teens, to stay at home parents, to the elderly, chances are you probably know someone who is suffering or has suffered from depression and anxiety.  One of the most common antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications prescribed today is Lexapro.  Over the past decade, Lexapro has become a household name in the world of anti-anxiety, depressant medications.  While we probably know the name and know why it’s prescribed, what do we really know about Lexapro itself? How does it work, and what about its side effects?  This article will delve into the good, bad and ugly of Lexapro.

What is an SSRI inhibitor? 

You may have heard this term before, as it is a large part of the discussion around antidepressants, but you may not know exactly what it is. SSRI is short for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.  Essentially, an SSRI inhibitor blocks the reuptake of serotonin.  Serotonin is a chemical in the body that plays a key role in mood, sleep, digestion, blood clotting and sexual desire.  Furthermore, it has been named the “feel-good hormone” as it plays a role in keeping anxiety and depression at bay.  So, an SSRI antidepressant works by not allowing the serotonin that’s been released into the body to be reabsorbed.  Instead, the serotonin is left in circulation to pass between cells.  The assumption here being that this extra amount of serotonin will affect the person positively, increasing mood and “feel good hormones.” 

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What are Lexapro’s Side Effects?

While Lexapro has helped many, it is important to be aware of the side effects. 

Common side effects of Lexapro include: 

  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth 
  • Drowsiness
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Blurred vision
  • Rash
  • Increased pain during menstruation
  • Increased appetite
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Irritability
  • Allergies
  • Hot flashes
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Heartburn
  • Pain in limbs
  • Weight gain
  • Jaw stiffness
  • Coughing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sinus congestion
  • Sinus headache
  • Insomnia 

More serious side effects include

  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Withdrawals from abruptly discontinued use
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain 
  • Bronchitis
  • Tinnitus.
  • Urinary tract infections

In general, Lexapro takes anywhere from 2-6 weeks to begin working. While the first week or so of treatment can be quite trying, some of the most impactful side effects occur during prolonged treatment. 

Needless to say, it is important to monitor your side effects while taking Lexapro. New evidence has emerged in the past few years that recognizes the inefficacy of SSRI inhibitors on many patients, and instead supports more naturopathic methods of decreasing depression and anxiety.

It is important that you speak to your health practitioner about any symptoms you are experiencing so that they can monitor any issues that may occur while taking the medication. 

Lexapro FAQs

Lexapro is a medication that is commonly prescribed to treat depression and anxiety. If you’re considering taking this medication, it’s natural to have questions and concerns about how it works, its potential side effects, and how to take it safely.

In this section, we’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about Lexapro, along with detailed answers from medical professionals. 

By reading through these FAQs, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision about whether Lexapro is the right treatment for you, and how to manage any potential side effects or interactions with other medications.

Is Lexapro addictive?

Lexapro isn’t an addictive medication, since you won’t experience any euphoric “high” from it, and it does not lead to any compulsive or drug-seeking behaviors. 

However, like with other antidepressants, sudden discontinuation of Lexapro may cause withdrawal symptoms. In these cases, it’s always important that you follow a healthcare provider’s instructions for discontinuing the medication, as well as seek their guidance if any issues arise.

Patients taking Lexapro are sometimes unaware that upon stopping they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms. 

Withdrawal is defined as: “The unpleasant physical reaction that accompanies the process of ceasing to take an addictive drug.”  

Stopping Lexapro abruptly has resulted in one or more of these withdrawal symptoms:

  • Emotional unrest
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Night sweats
  • And tingling on the skin

While most attest that withdrawal symptoms subside in 90 days, there have been cases where withdrawal symptoms have lasted up to one year.  

Can you consume alcohol while taking Lexapro?

It is not recommended to consume alcohol while taking Lexapro, because it has the potential to increase the risk of certain side effects like drowsiness and dizziness. 

Additionally, alcohol can actually worsen any symptoms of depression and anxiety, which can counteract the effects of the medication. It is important to discuss any concerns about alcohol consumption with a healthcare provider, as they can provide individualized recommendations based on a person’s specific circumstances.

Is Lexapro an SSRI?

Yes, Lexapro is an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). SSRIs are a class of medications that are used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions by increasing the availability of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.

SSRIs like Lexapro work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin by certain nerve cells in the brain, allowing more of the neurotransmitter to remain in the synapses between neurons. 

This can help improve mood, reduce anxiety, and promote feelings of well-being.

Lexapro is one of the newer SSRIs and is known for having a relatively low risk of side effects compared to older medications in this class. It is often prescribed at a lower dosage than other SSRIs, and some people find that it works faster than other antidepressants.

However, like all medications, Lexapro does have potential side effects, and it may not be the best choice for everyone. 

Before taking Lexapro or any other SSRI, it’s important to discuss the potential benefits and risks with your doctor or mental health professional, and to follow their instructions for use carefully. In some cases, combining medication with therapy or other forms of treatment may be the most effective approach to managing depression and anxiety.

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Find Help For Lexapro Addiction At Renaissance Recovery

If you or a loved one is struggling with Lexapro addiction and need help, our team at Renaissance Recovery can help you.  Call our admissions team to learn more about our addiction treatment programs and get your new life started today. We can help you find the happiness you’re looking for, call us at 866.330.9449 to learn more.



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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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