Lexapro, also known by its generic name escitalopram, is a common selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medication used to treat mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Lexapro increases serotonin levels in the brain, helping regulate mood.
Before starting it, most people want to know how long does it take for Lexapro to work? The answer depends on several factors, including everything from body chemistry to severity of depression or anxiety symptoms — so, how long before Lexapro works? Keep reading to find out more.
Can Lexapro Work Immediately?
Many people with anxiety and depression have turned to Lexapro, an SSRI antidepressant medication, as part of their treatment plan.
The length of time it takes for Lexapro treatment to start working can vary. It’s common for some symptoms — like improved energy, sleep, and appetite — to improve within a week or two. However, other symptoms — like being uninterested in activities and having depressive feelings — might take up to 6 – 8 weeks before seeing improvement.
How fast does Lexapro work for anxiety?
When it comes to answering how long it takes for Lexapro to work for anxiety, several factors come into play. Individual response time and dose strength can both affect how quickly Lexapro treatment starts working.
Your doctor may start you with a low dose of Lexapro and gradually increase the strength over time. This process can take several weeks, as your body adjusts to the medication.
Timeline for Lexapro to Work
While it can take several weeks for Lexapro to start working, many people find some relief from anxiety and depression symptoms shortly after beginning the medication.
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- First dose – a couple of weeks: When starting Lexapro, be patient. Your body will adjust to the medication, and you might start to feel some improvement within a couple of weeks. A small subset of people find that Lexapro works within a day or so, but that percentage is extremely small. Even if you’re not experiencing the full benefits of the drug, continue taking your medication as prescribed.
- By 2 months: Most people notice a difference within 1 – 2 months. Mood and feeling motivated to engage in activities should be noticeably improved by this time.
- 2 months and beyond: Within 2 months, the majority of people start to see the full effects of Lexapro in their system. If you don’t see a difference by this point, you should talk to your doctor about adjusting your dosage or trying another type of antidepressant medication.
How long before Lexapro works really just depends — everyone responds differently when taking medications. Each individual will react differently to each Lexapro dosage. Some people may feel better sooner, while others may not notice any changes until later. Some may even experience certain side effects like weight gain on Lexapro.
*Do not stop taking Lexapro without consulting your doctor.
How does Lexapro make you feel the first week?
When first starting Lexapro, knowing how the medication may affect you is essential. As your body adjusts, there are some side effects to be aware of.
The most common side effects for Lexapro users include:
- Sexual dysfunction
These side effects of Lexapro are usually mild and often go away on their own in time. The exception is sexual side effects, which are less likely to resolve. If symptoms persist or worsen over time, contact your doctor right away.
How Do You Know if Lexapro is Working?
The effectiveness of a medication like Lexapro can be challenging to gauge. That said, certain signs can indicate you’re responding positively. Here are a few things you should look out for:
- Improved mood: One of the most common indications that Lexapro is working is improved mood.
- Increased energy levels: Another sign that your body’s adjusting well to Lexapro is increased energy levels throughout the day.
- Reduced stress levels: Reduced stress levels in situations where you once felt overwhelmed can indicate Lexapro is working.
“Although the drug is a constant, we are different. Therefore, how a drug affects us vs. another person may be different. That is why it is so important to be in contact with your physician to inform them about how it is affecting you. Mental health medication is not one size fits all.”– Talkspace therapist Dr Karmen Smith LCSW DD
What to Do When Lexapro is Not Working
It can be hard to understand why a medication isn’t working as expected. If you feel like Lexapro isn’t helping, you can take a few steps to determine the cause and find an effective solution.
- Start by consulting your doctor: The first step should always be to talk with your doctor about any concerns or questions you have. They’ll be able to assess whether the Lexapro dosage is correct or if another underlying issue is causing symptoms.
- Evaluate your diet and exercise habits: Diet and exercise can significantly impact how well medications work to treat mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. It’s also important to keep in mind how Lexapro interacts with certain substances. For example, be sure you don’t drink alcohol with Lexapro as this can have a harmful reaction that counteracts Lexapro’s purpose.
- Consider alternative treatments: Alternative treatments, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness meditation techniques, or yoga, might offer additional support for managing mental health conditions more effectively over time without relying solely on medication alone.
- Try other medications: If all else fails, it may be necessary to try other types of depression medication or anxiety medication. Talk with your doctor about what other options they recommend.
*It’s important to consult a medical professional before changing medications.
“I have had a client who began taking less and less of the medication with the goal of getting off entirely. I noticed some of the events in her life were causing more anxiety and she was less able to implement her coping skills. She began to see that this may not be the time to get off of the Lexapro that was helping her.”– Talkspace therapist Dr Karmen Smith LCSW DD
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Talkspace is an online platform that connects people with licensed and experienced therapists and psychiatrists. Get access to therapy via text, audio, or video chat on any device, and receive personalized, professional help where you feel most comfortable. You also can connect with an online psychiatrist to get prescribed medication if part of your treatment plan. Talkspace makes it easy to get the support you need and manage your mental health from the comfort of your own home.
- Escitalopram (Lexapro). NAMI. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Escitalopram-%28Lexapro%29#: Accessed December 14, 2022.
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