Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by
Steve North, MD
May 11, 2023

Lexapro (Escitalopram) is a commonly prescribed medication for anxiety and depression. And like most medications, Lexapro can cause withdrawal symptoms when it’s discontinued. These withdrawal symptoms vary from mild to severe and can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. If you’re considering tapering off Lexapro or have already started the process, this post will provide valuable insights and strategies to help you manage the withdrawal symptoms effectively.

What Is Lexapro (Escitalopram)?

Lexapro is also known as escitalopram. It’s an antidepressant medication used to treat anxiety and depression. It’s classified under a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which work by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) that regulates mood, sleep, and appetite.

How Does It Work?

Lexapro works by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin. This then allows serotonin to accumulate in the brain, increasing serotonin available to bind to serotonin receptors. When this happens, you’re likely to experience improved mood and less anxiety and depression.

What Does Lexapro Treat?

Lexapro treats major depressive disorder, anxiety associated with depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and bipolar depression. 

Anxiety is a feeling of excessive worry, fear, or nervousness that interferes with daily activities. 

Symptoms of anxiety include sweating, increased heart rate, restlessness, irritability, difficulty sleeping, muscle tension, and panic attacks.

Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable.

Symptoms of depression include changes in appetite and sleep patterns, fatigue, frustration, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Importance of Tapering Off Medication

Tapering off medication allows your body to adjust to the decrease in medication gradually. It also allows you to minimize the risk of withdrawal symptoms, which can be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous to your body. 

Lexapro Withdrawal

Withdrawal is a term used to describe the effects experienced after a person stops using a substance, such as medication, on which they were dependent. Symptoms of withdrawal range from mild to severe and can vary depending on the substance in question and the individual.

Causes of Lexapro Withdrawal

People experience Lexapro withdrawal because as you take the medication, your brain becomes accustomed to the increased levels of serotonin. Now, when the medication is discontinued, the brain struggles to produce enough serotonin on its own, leading to withdrawal symptoms.

How Long Does Lexapro Withdrawal Last?

There’s no exact set time period as to how long you should expect Lexapro withdrawal to last. However, several factors may influence the duration. For example, the length of time the medication was used and the dosage. But generally, the withdrawal symptoms can last for several weeks to several months.

An infographic illustrating the effects of lexapro withdrawal

Common Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms

Physical Symptoms

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Tremors
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Frequent urination

Psychological Side Effects

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Confusion or difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares

Severe Withdrawal Symptoms

Although some people will not experience Lexapro withdrawal symptoms, most people experience mild to moderate effects. And others may experience severe symptoms such as:

  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions
  • Seizures
  • Mania or hypomania

If you are experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms or are concerned about your symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately. This may involve visiting a healthcare provider, going to the emergency room, or calling a crisis hotline.

How To Manage Lexapro Withdrawal

Getting off Lexapro can be challenging, and withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and distressing. However, it’s possible to manage Lexapro withdrawal and minimize the risk of severe symptoms. Here are three pro tips to consider.

Self-Care Tips

Here are some self-care tips to help alleviate Lexapro withdrawal symptoms:

  • Gradual Tapering: Consider tapering off Lexapro slowly and under the guidance of a healthcare professional to minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
  • Exercise: Exercise regularly to boost your mood and reduce anxiety, which can be helpful during withdrawal. 
  • Relaxation Techniques: Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga, to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
  • Good Sleep Habits: Create a regular sleep routine and avoid stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine.
  • Balanced Diet: Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to support your overall health and reduce inflammation, which can worsen withdrawal symptoms.

When to Get Professional Help

While self-care is beneficial during Lexapro withdrawal, you may still need professional help. For example, if the withdrawal symptoms are severe and interfere with your daily life, it may be time to seek professional help. 

Also, if the withdrawal symptoms persist for an extended period, you may need to seek professional help. Withdrawal symptoms can last for several weeks to several months, but if they continue beyond this timeframe, it may be a sign that something else is going on.

What’s more, if the symptoms persist or worsen despite self-care measures, a healthcare professional may need a medical professional to adjust the dosage or switch you to a different medication.

Support from Friends and Family

When going through the Lexapro withdrawal phase, support from family and friends can really make a difference. Here are three ways loved ones can offer support:

  • Emotional Support: Loved ones can offer emotional support by listening without judgment, providing encouragement, and offering words of affirmation.
  • Practical Support: Loved ones can offer practical support by helping with household chores, providing meals, or offering transportation to appointments.
  • Education: Loved ones can learn about Lexapro withdrawal and provide support by understanding what to expect and how to help.

Get the Help You Need Today

Managing Lexapro withdrawal can be challenging, but with the right strategies, you can overcome the challenge and live the life you want, free of medication. Self-care, professional help, and support from friends and family are all effective ways to manage Lexapro withdrawal. 

Note that if you think or feel you may have anxiety or depression or are struggling with Lexapro withdrawal, it is essential to reach out for help. 

Eleanor Health is here to support you with services like virtual therapy from the comfort of your own home, which is convenient for your schedule. We are currently located in Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and Washington. Get in touch with us today.

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Steve North, MD

Dr. North is the Vice President for Medical Operations and the NC State Medical Director for Eleanor Health. He has been designing, implementing and evaluating telemedicine programs since 2007. His current work includes leading Eleanor Health’s provision of addiction medicine services via virtual care in North Carolina and four other states and serving on the National Quality Forum’s Rural Telehealth and Healthcare System Readiness Committee. Dr. North received his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his medical doctorate from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. He completed his Family Medicine Residency, Adolescent Medicine Fellowship, and Master’s in Public Health at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

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