Celexa and Lexapro are two common psychiatrist prescribed medications for mental health issues. Both are FDA-approved to treat depression, although Lexapro can also be used for adults with anxiety. They both belong to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). While Celexa or Lexapro have similar effects on the body, there are some key differences between them:
- Lexapro is approved to treat anxiety — though both are used off-label for other conditions
- Lexapro may be more effective than Celexa in treating symptoms of depression
- Lexapro is a slightly newer drug — it was FDA-approved in 2002, whereas Celexa was approved in 1998
- Lexapro is approved to treat depression in adults and children 12 years and older; Celexa is only used with adults
Continue reading as we explore more in this comparison of Celexa vs Lexapro. We’re shining a light on how each of these medications works, what they treat, what Celexa and Lexapro side effects you should be aware of, and how to choose which one may be right for you.
“Both of these medications are classified as SSRIs and prescribed for mood and anxiety disorders. Celexa is FDA approved and indicated for MDD and OCD. Lexapro is FDA approved and indicated for MDD and GAD. However, psychiatrists may prescribe these for other clinical conditions or as an off label medication.”– Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Muhammad Munir, MD, DFAPA
How They Work
When looking at Lexapro vs Celexa, it’s crucial to understand how these drugs work. They both belong to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs increase serotonin levels in the brain, which is believed to help regulate mood.
Similarities between Lexapro vs Celexa:
- Both prevent the reuptake of serotonin by increasing levels, which improves depressive symptoms
- Both have generic versions
- Both have similar side effects
- Both have withdrawal symptoms
- Both have relatively few concerns about drug interaction with other medication
- Both are only available by prescription, but neither is classified as “controlled drugs”
Differences between Celexa and Lexapro:
- Dosage is different
- Lexapro can be administered in either liquid or tablet form, but Celexa treatment only comes as pills
- Side effects may differ
- Celexa is more likely to cause QT prolongation — a heart disturbance — at higher doses
Conditions They Treat
Celexa and Lexapro are both FDA-approved to treat major depressive disorder (MDD), and Lexapro can treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in adults. They may also be used off-label for other mental health conditions.
Celexa antidepressant medication can be used off-label to treat:
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Lexapro antidepressant medication can be used off-label to treat:
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Receive an evaluation and prescription for mental health medication (if needed) from a psychiatry-trained medical provider.
Does Lexapro work better than Celexa for anxiety?
A significant difference between Celexa and Lexapro is efficacy. Some studies suggest that patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) respond better to Lexapro than Celexa for their condition.
However, it’s important to note that each person responds differently to medications. Everything from the efficacy to how long it takes for Lexapro to work can be different across individuals. It’s always best to discuss your options with your doctor or healthcare provider so you can make the best decisions about which medication is right for you and your anxiety and depression symptoms.
Common side effects associated with both drugs include:
- Insomnia or drowsiness
- Dry mouth
- Increased sweating
Some people may experience sexual side effects, including decreased libido or difficulty achieving orgasm while taking either drug. Other potential side effects include weight gain, especially in regards to Lexapro weight gain, or loss and changes in appetite.
|Seizures||With higher doses and in people with seizure disorder|
|*Low sodium levels||✓|
|*Risk of bleeding||✓||✓|
|*Abnormal heart rhythm||✓|
|*Manic episodes in people with bipolar disorder||✓||✓|
*Denotes more severe side effects
“Several side effects are dose-dependent, at higher doses. These include delayed ejaculation, fatigue, sleepiness, insomnia, sweating, and yawning.”– Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Muhammad Munir, MD, DFAPA
Does Celexa have less side effects than Lexapro?
In general, most people find that the side effects of either drug are mild compared to the benefits they see. That said, some people do report experiencing fewer side effects when taking one over the other.
If you feel you’re having too many adverse reactions from any medication, speak with your doctor so they can adjust your dosage or switch medications.
Dosage is another difference between Celexa and Lexapro. Dosage can vary depending on factors such as age and medical history of patients, but the generally recommended starting doses are:
- Celexa: 20 mg per day
- Lexapro: 10 mg per day
“The dose increment is done at different intervals and over different duration. There is a difference in the symptoms response, the dosage prescribed is different Celexa 10/2/40 mg vs Lexapro 10/20 mg.”– Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Muhammad Munir, MD, DFAPA
Determine if Celexa or Lexapro Is Right for You with Talkspace
Deciding which medication is right for you can be difficult. Even when taking the same type of antidepressant—like an SSRI such as Celexa or Lexapro — medications can affect people differently. Regardless, most people find medication is more effective when combined with therapy. That’s why Talkspace offers online psychiatry and therapy services, where licensed mental health professionals can help you determine the best treatment plan for you and your specific situation.
With Talkspace, you receive personalized care tailored specifically towards helping you manage your mental health condition so you can achieve long-lasting results. Don’t hesitate to reach out and start your journey towards better mental health today.
- Montgomery S, Hansen T, Kasper S. Efficacy of escitalopram compared to citalopram: A meta-analysis. The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. 2010;14(02):261-268. doi:10.1017/s146114571000115x. https://academic.oup.com/ijnp/article/14/2/261/696727?login=false. Accessed December 14, 2022.
- Gorman JM, Korotzer A, Su G. Efficacy comparison of escitalopram and citalopram in the treatment of major depressive disorder: Pooled analysis of placebo-controlled trials. CNS Spectrums. 2002;7(S1):40-44. doi:10.1017/s1092852900028595. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15131492/. Accessed December 14, 2022.
- Escitalopram (Lexapro). NAMI. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Escitalopram-%28Lexapro%29#: Accessed December 14, 2022.
Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.
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