Celexa and Lexapro: Side Effects, Interactions, and More

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on August 25, 2022
3 min read

Your doctor may mention selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) when you talk to them about medication for depression.

SSRIs are a type of antidepressant that raise the amount of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a hormone that helps control your mood. You feel happy, calm, and focused when your serotonin levels are normal.

Citalopram (Celexa) and escitalopram (Lexapro) are similar SSRI medications that treat depression. You can get both medications as pills or liquids.

The FDA has approved both medications to treat major depressive disorder. Lexapro can also treat generalized anxiety disorder. Researchers haven’t found one drug to be more effective than the other.

Your mental state may unexpectedly change as you take Celexa or Lexapro. You could have suicidal thoughts as you start your prescription or when your dose goes up or down. Signs that you need to talk to your doctor immediately include:

  • Depression that’s worse
  • Thinking about suicide
  • Intense worry
  • Panic attacks
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling restless, aggressive, or irritable
  • Acting without thinking
  • Unusual excitement

Celexa and Lexapro also share these common side effects:

Researchers haven’t studied whether Celexa and Lexapro are addictive, but studies done in animals show the risk for abuse is low. But stopping antidepressants suddenly can be risky in people who take them for more than 6 weeks. You may have side effects like mood changes, dizziness, and anxiety if you suddenly stop taking your medication. You should talk to your doctor first if you want to stop using either medication. Your doctor will lower your dose over time.

Both Celexa and Lexapro have several “off-label” uses. This is when a doctor gives you a drug for a condition other than what the FDA has approved it to treat.

Doctors may prescribe Lexapro for obsessive-compulsive disorder, insomnia, and symptoms of menopause.

Celexa can treat alcoholism, binge eating disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, hot flashes, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should check with their doctors about continuing or stopping either of these medications.

You shouldn’t take Celexa or Lexapro if you:

  • Are allergic to any of the ingredients
  • Take another type of antidepressant called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Stopped taking a MAOI less than 2 weeks ago. You also shouldn’t start taking an MAOI within 2 weeks of stopping Celexa/Lexapro.
  • Take Pimozide (Orap)

Celexa isn’t recommended for people who have:

Before you start your prescription, you should also tell your doctor about any medications, supplements, or herbs you take. The items below could have a bad interaction with Celexa or Lexapro:

  • Drugs for heart problems
  • Drugs that lower your body’s potassium or magnesium levels
  • Cimetidine
  • Triptans for migraines
  • Drugs for mood, anxiety, psychotic, or thought disorders
  • Tramadol
  • Supplements like tryptophan or St. John’s wort

The chemical structure of Celexa and Lexapro is so similar that you shouldn’t take the two drugs together.

You should also tell your doctor about any health conditions you have or issues you’ve had recently, such as:

Young adults under 24, teens, and children usually shouldn’t take antidepressants because studies show the drugs may especially raise suicidal thoughts and actions in these groups. But clinical trials show that Lexapro is safe for adolescents ages 12 to 17 who have major depressive disorder.

If you have thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) immediately.