Celexa (citalopram) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that is beneficial in treating symptoms of depression and anxiety, but it can also cause side effects and withdrawal symptoms when stopped abruptly.
Discontinuing Celexa — or any antidepressant medication — can be challenging, but it’s not as hard as you might think. Learning about Celexa withdrawal and antidepressant withdrawal, in general, is important if you’re thinking of quitting the medication in the near future.
Withdrawal from Celexa treatment can include physical and psychological side effects, so knowing what to expect, how long symptoms might last, and discovering coping strategies to get you through is critical to your journey.
Keep reading to learn more about how to successfully navigate withdrawal from Celexa.
Can Celexa Be Stopped Cold Turkey?
While it’s not as dangerous as some other drugs, stopping Celexa (citalopram) cold turkey isn’t recommended. Research shows that more than half of all people who stop taking antidepressants experience withdrawal symptoms, and 46% have severe abrupt discontinuation symptoms.
“It technically can be stopped cold turkey, but it’s not recommended to stop this psychiatrist-prescribed medication suddenly due to possible withdrawal effects of headache and stomach upset.”– Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Dion Metzger
Celexa does have a longer half-life than some other antidepressant medication, which means it tends to cause fewer withdrawal symptoms. Some studies suggest the risk of serious withdrawal symptoms is not as high, either. Still, sudden cessation of Celexa treatment — like any other antidepressant — can result in side effects, including what’s known as Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome (ADS). ADS can cause dizziness, nausea, headache, fatigue, insomnia, and irritability. In some cases, Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome symptoms can be severe enough to cause a depressive disorder or depression relapse.
Despite the lower risk, when discontinuing a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor like Celexa, the dose reduction should occur gradually over several weeks — or even months if necessary — so the brain and body have time to adjust, decreasing the chance of severe withdrawal. The duration of the process for those who do experience it depends on things like how long you’ve been taking the drug and your dosage before you start tapering off.
Generally, for people who’ve taken higher dosages and been on a drug longer, a more gradual decrease might be necessary than for someone who’s had a lower dosage for a shorter time.
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Withdrawal Symptoms of Celexa
There are several common Celexa withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Insomnia/sleep disturbances
- Anxiety attack
- Depression relapse
- Brain zaps
- Flu-like aches & pains
In extreme cases, some people have reported experiencing seizures after stopping SSRIs — this would require immediate medical attention if experienced.
How Long Does Celexa Withdrawal Last?
The time it takes to wean off antidepressants can differ depending on factors like an individual’s chemistry, health background, age, the dosage taken, and the length of time the medication was used. Withdrawal symptoms can last for a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for it to take up to 4 weeks or longer for the full range of Celexa withdrawal symptoms to completely dissipate. Because the withdrawal period can vary from person to person, if recovery seems slower than expected, don’t be discouraged — it’s all part of the process.
Celexa withdrawal timeline
There’s no set timeline for Celexa withdrawal. Some people will start feeling abrupt discontinuation symptoms within 24 hours after their last dose. Most, however, won’t begin seeing them until 3 – 6 days after taking their last dose. A typical timeline for withdrawal symptoms might look something like this:
- Days 3-4: Withdrawal symptoms usually begin
- Days 4-8: Withdrawal symptoms usually peak
- Weeks 2-6: Withdrawal symptoms often begin to fade
A systematic review of 24 studies assessed the incidence, severity, and duration of antidepressant withdrawal effects — some studies revealed:
- 27% of people had symptoms for 2 weeks
- 40% of people had symptoms for at least 6 weeks
- 25% of people had them for 3 months or longer
“It can be discontinued over 2 weeks with a drop to half the dose in week 1 and then cut that dose in half for the final week.”– Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Dion Metzger
When does Celexa withdrawal peak?
For most people, Celexa withdrawal symptoms will peak within 4-8 days after ceasing use, although this, too, can vary.
How to Cope with Celexa Withdrawal
Preparing in advance is the best way to manage any potential Celexa withdrawal symptoms. You should discuss with your physician how to discontinue the medication and review what indications or Celexa side effects you should be aware of. Talk about your individual needs, so they can offer you personalized advice should you experience a symptom like brain zaps or relapsing into a depressive disorder.
To deal with withdrawal symptoms, you can use the following guidelines:
- Tapering off over 2 weeks to a month is suggested
- Consider medication for symptoms
- Keep in communication with your doctor
- Make self-care and staying healthy a priority
- Consider seeking therapy like online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), both of which have been found in studies to be potential alternatives to antidepressants
“If withdrawal symptoms become too bothersome, slow down the decrease of the medication. Instead of decreasing it over 2 weeks, stretch it over 4 weeks.”– Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Dion Metzger
How Do I Safely Come Off Celexa?
The best way to avoid withdrawal effects is by gradually tapering off the dose over several weeks. Do not stop suddenly. It’s important to talk with your doctor before making any changes in dosage or discontinuing use. They can help determine if any underlying medical conditions might contribute to symptoms. They’ll also be able to advise you on how to reduce the dose safely and effectively without experiencing too many side effects or unwanted reactions from quitting abruptly.
The duration of withdrawal symptoms after discontinuing Celexa can vary, but they generally range from weeks to several months. During this period, there may be an initial peak in severity before gradually tapering off.
If you experience severe or persisting side effects while coming off Celexa, you should contact your doctor immediately. Medical intervention may be necessary to manage your withdrawal and successfully come off the drug with minimal distress. Take action now, and don’t let withdrawal symptoms overpower you — seek professional help if you need to.
Talk with a Licensed Psychiatrist
Deciding to come off Celexa can be a complex process, but it is possible to do so safely and effectively. It’s essential to understand that withdrawal periods can differ between individuals, with some feeling more extreme symptoms than others. If you’re worried about Celexa withdrawal, talk with your doctor or a licensed online psychiatrist about any potential risks you should be aware of.
With clinical guidance and support, you can successfully prepare for the Celexa withdrawal timeline without significant complications or side effects.
Are you feeling overwhelmed or like you need to talk to a licensed psychiatrist? Feeling lost and uncertain when it comes to managing mental health can be a daunting experience. However, with the ever-growing number of resources available, it’s become easier than ever to access professional assistance for mental health concerns.
- Davies J, Read J. A systematic review into the incidence, severity and duration of antidepressant withdrawal effects: Are guidelines evidence-based? Addictive Behaviors. 2019;97:111-121. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.08.027. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306460318308347. Accessed March 3, 2023.
- Henssler J, Heinz A, Brandt L, Bschor T. Antidepressant withdrawal and rebound phenomena. Deutsches Ärzteblatt international. 2019. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2019.0355. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6637660/. Accessed March 3, 2023.
- Maund E, Stuart B, Moore M, et al. Managing antidepressant discontinuation: A systematic review. The Annals of Family Medicine. 2019;17(1):52-60. doi:10.1370/afm.2336. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6342590/. Accessed March 3, 2023.
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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