How Long Does Lexapro Take To Work?

Published March 7th, 2021 by Angel Rivera
Fact Checked by
Camille Freking
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Gerardo Sison
Updated Date: Apr 1st, 2021
 

What is Lexapro | Treatments Options | How Does it Work | How Long Does it Take to Work | Side Effects

Lexapro is one of the most popular antidepressants on the market thanks to its comparatively low risk of side effects and high rate of effectiveness. If you are considering taking Lexapro for your depression or anxiety disorder, you might be wondering: how long does it take for Lexapro to work?

What is Lexapro?

Lexapro is a brand name prescription medication that is also sold under the generic name escitalopram. The medication belongs to a type of antidepressant medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which were first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1986; Lexapro received approval in 2002. Other common SSRIs include citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram oxalate (Cipralex), sertraline (Zoloft), and fluoxetine (Prozac).

Lexapro is commonly used for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder in adults and is only the second antidepressant in the United States to be approved for the treatment of MDD in adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17.

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How does Lexapro work?

SSRIs like Lexapro help to treat depression and anxiety by acting on the chemistry of the brain. The medications block some of the reabsorption of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that delivers messages between the brain cells. Blocking the reabsorption of serotonin helps to increase the levels of the neurotransmitter in the brain, helping the brain cells to receive messages more quickly.

While researchers aren’t sure exactly how this correlates to improved symptoms of depression and anxiety, it is common for people using Lexapro to treat their conditions to experience a lifted mood, regain interest in old hobbies that they once enjoyed, and feel the physical symptoms of depression diminish.

How long does it take for Lexapro to work?

Like other drugs in its class, Lexapro acts on the chemistry of the brain and increases the amount of neurotransmitters, including serotonin. This is a slow process, so Lexapro works slowly compared to other medications.

Patients who are using Lexapro to treat mental health conditions like depression and anxiety should not expect the medication to start working right away. patients should not expect to notice a change in their symptoms right away.

Lexapro typically starts to improve the physical symptoms of depression first, so you might notice a difference in your sleep patterns, appetite, and energy levels after about one to two weeks. This is a good sign that the medication is working, but you likely will not notice a significant change in your mood and emotional symptoms until you’ve been taking Lexapro regularly for four to six weeks.

Because many of the symptoms associated with anxiety are physical, patients who use Lexapro for anxiety are likely to experience the quickest reduction in symptoms. Patients using the medication to treat depression may take longer to notice improvement in symptoms like depressed mood and a lack of interest in activities that they used to enjoy.

What are some common side effects of Lexapro?

Lexapro is generally better tolerated than other antidepressants in its class, so the side effects associated with Lexapro may be less than the side effects associated with other antidepressants. However, some people tolerate Lexapro better than others. The side effects of Lexapro are slightly different for children and adults.

Common side effects of Lexapro use in adults include:

  • Weight gain
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Infection
  • Unusual changes in sex drive and other sexual issues like erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation 
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleepiness, sleep disturbances or drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Constipation
  • Yawning

Children, adolescents, teenagers, and young adults may experience the same possible side effects listed above for adults, but may also experience symptoms including:

  • Trouble urinating
  • Slowed growth and weight change or weight loss
  • Increased thirst
  • Abnormal increase in muscle movement or agitation
  • Nosebleeds
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Suicidal thoughts

Lexapro is also associated with rare but serious side effects, including severe allergic reaction, extremely high blood pressure, seizures or convulsions, low salt levels, serotonin syndrome, manic episodes, and vision problems. If you experience any side effects that are severe or feel life threatening, seek medical attention immediately.

If you experience any of these side effects, please get medical attention immediately.

Summary

Most people will take four to six weeks to experience the full effects of Lexapro as it works on the brain. Physical symptoms associated with depression and anxiety may begin to improve in as little as one to two weeks, while mood-related symptoms take longer to resolve.

Certain drugs are at an increased risk of adverse drug interactions such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). If you suffer from major depressive disorder, panic disorders including panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or bipolar disorder, you may benefit from Lexapro.

Seek medical advice from your healthcare provider to determine whether Lexapro is right for you.

Sources:

https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-63990/lexapro-oral/details 

https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Escitalopram-(Lexapro) 

https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/lexapro-side-effects

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