Lexapro, also known as Cipralex and Escitalopram (generic), is an antidepressant medication of the SSRI (selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor) class prescribed for the treatment of psychiatric conditions like: major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Many people who use Lexapro find that the drug works extremely well for controlling symptoms of their mental disorder, but unfortunately, not everyone benefits from this medication – it’s not always effective and sometimes causes unwanted side effects or adverse reactions. Anyone who doesn’t find this drug to be useful may stop treatment – only to experience Lexapro withdrawal symptoms.
What causes Lexapro withdrawal symptoms?
Lexapro withdrawal symptoms are understood to occur primarily as a result of neurotransmitter fluctuations throughout the brain. When anyone takes Lexapro, the medication changes neurotransmitter levels and various connections throughout the cortex – usually by modifying levels of serotonin (5-HT). Continued usage of Lexapro for weeks or months will cause the brain to adapt to its presence whereby the drug is needed to maintain neurotransmitter balance.
Essentially, when anyone stops taking Lexapro, the brain is still expecting the drug to maintain neurotransmitter balance, yet the brain does not receive it. As a result, neurochemistry remains imbalanced and this imbalance causes withdrawal symptoms. Over time the brain will eventually readjust its neurotransmitter levels back to normal, but until it does, Lexapro withdrawal symptoms might occur.
The neurotransmitter most affected by Lexapro:
- Serotonin (5-HT)
Unlike other drugs, Lexapro mostly just affects serotonin levels. It is serotonin imbalances that are thought to provoke most of the symptoms that emerge during withdrawal.
Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms (List of Possibilities)
If you stop taking Lexapro, there are a variety of withdrawal symptoms that could potentially occur. Below is a list of symptoms that you might experience during Lexapro withdrawal. That said, you should know that most people do not experience every single symptom on the list.
The number of symptoms you experience, how severe your symptoms end up, and how long they last – will be unique to you; not everyone has the same experience. Also, know that not all of these symptoms are documented in medical literature – likely due to the fact that withdrawal isn’t well-researched.
- Anger: Not everyone will experience anger during Lexapro withdrawal, however, many will notice unexpected anger. The anger may be related to irritability such that every little thing makes you upset – or gets you more worked up than usual. The anger may be very difficult to control and could result in outbursts or episodes of rage. Do your best to keep this symptom under control throughout withdrawal.
- Appetite changes: You may notice that your appetite seems abnormal during the first few weeks of Lexapro withdrawal. Serotonin levels in the brain can affect appetite, and many claim that serotonin levels aren’t in proper balance during withdrawal. Due to these serotonin imbalances, you might notice a decrease or increase in appetite when stopping Lexapro.
- Body cramps: A less common withdrawal symptom, though one that has been reported, cramping throughout the body. It is suspected that excessive sweating, dehydration, and/or electrolyte imbalances might be culpable for this symptom. Staying hydrated and restoring electrolyte levels may help reduce withdrawal cramps.
- Brain zaps: Many people experience electrical buzzing or shocking sensations throughout their head or brain during Lexapro withdrawal. These electrical jolts are referred to by many as “brain zaps.” The brain zaps can be painful for some individuals and usually occur at unexpected times.
- Crying a lot: You may be prone to crying more than usual during Lexapro withdrawal. The crying may occur as a result of returning depression or anxiety, but also might be related to strong emotions that surface from serotonin imbalances during withdrawal. If you’re crying excessively, be sure to inform your doctor.
- Depression: Lexapro is a medication used to treat depression, however, when it’s discontinued, depression may return worse than ever. Why? Because a person is no longer receiving the drug to help manage depression – and serotonin levels are imbalanced from the drug withdrawal. Always continue working with professionals to keep your depression under control as you withdraw.
- Dizziness: A symptom that’s very common among people who discontinue Lexapro is dizziness. The dizziness may be associated with anxiety during withdrawal, but may be more related to neurotransmitter imbalances within the brain. Some suspect that neurotransmitter imbalances in withdrawal can affect equilibrium and our sense of balance, which ultimately may cause dizziness.
- Flu-like: It’s possible to experience flu-like symptoms characterized by feverish chills, nausea, coughing, achy muscles and joints, vomiting, and/or sweating. Obviously if you experience these symptoms during Lexapro withdrawal, you should report them to a doctor and rule out infection. If these symptoms are from withdrawal, they should improve within several weeks of your final dose.
- Headaches: Pounding headaches can occur as a result of Lexapro withdrawal. In fact, many consider headaches to be among the most common of all Lexapro withdrawal symptoms. Some find that staying hydrated and taking over-the-counter medications are helpful for managing withdrawal-induced headaches.
- Increased anxiety: It is very common for people to experience a spike in anxiety when they discontinue Lexapro. The anxiety spike may be related to a return of an anxiety disorder, but also is probably related to changes in serotonin signaling. High anxiety during withdrawal may interfere with sleep and social relationships. Do your best to keep stress as low as possible while you discontinue Lexapro.
- Low energy: Many people report feeling physically and mentally fatigued when they stop taking Lexapro. This fatigue may be so debilitating, that it’s a struggle to get out of bed in the morning or perform normal tasks at work, school, or around the house. Energy levels usually begin increasing after the first few weeks of withdrawal, but it may take awhile to fully recover to your pre-Lexapro energy level.
- Insomnia: A very common symptom of Lexapro withdrawal that affects many is insomnia. Some people will struggle with falling asleep at night, whereas others will struggle staying asleep at night. Additionally, certain people may have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep – resulting in very poor sleep quality during withdrawal. Usually a doctor can prescribe medication to help if the insomnia is severe.
- Irritability: You might feel incredibly irritable during Lexapro withdrawal. This irritability may cause you to lash out at loved ones, friends, and/or colleagues. Do your best to keep your irritability under control so that you do not damage or destroy relationships during your withdrawal. Many people report exercise as an effective way to manage irritability in withdrawal.
- Memory impairment: After quitting Lexapro, it may seem like your memory isn’t working as well as it usually does. You might have trouble remembering recent things that you learned, names, and/or important dates. Though you probably didn’t suffer permanent memory damage, it may take your memory some time to fully recover.
- Odd dreams: The dreams that you experience during Lexapro withdrawal may be very odd or stranger than usual. The dreams may also be vivid with bright colors and/or include people that you never expected. Realize that these dreams are probably related to changes in arousal and neurotransmitters during withdrawal.
- Panic attacks: It’s possible to experience unexpected panic attacks during withdrawal from Lexapro. These panic attacks may occur as a result of high arousal plus low serotonin signaling. If you experience panic attacks, you may need to include daily relaxation exercises in your daily routine until you get your anxiety under control.
- Poor concentration: It may be challenging to maintain focus or concentration while withdrawing from Lexapro. The symptoms of withdrawal can be distracting, throwing off your focus at work or school. Realize that it may take some time for your concentration to revert back to normal and try not to get too frustrated with yourself. Many people find that practicing relaxation to calm their nerves also helps improve focus in withdrawal.
- Relapse: If you were taking Lexapro, it was probably prescribed to treat a medical condition. When you stop taking Lexapro, there’s a chance that your medical condition may reemerge along with its symptoms. Additionally, symptoms may be worse than before you started taking Lexapro due to the fact that neurotransmitters are more imbalanced during withdrawal.
- Restlessness: It’s common to experience restlessness during Lexapro withdrawal. This restlessness might make it difficult to sit still while working or may result in fidgeting such as by moving your hands, arms, legs, etc. Supplements, relaxation, and exercise may help you keep the restlessness to a minimum.
- Sensitivity of senses: It may seem like your senses are unusually sensitive during Lexapro withdrawal. Most people report that sounds seem to be amplified and/or lights seem brighter than normal. If your sensory sensitivity is causing stress, be sure to avoid triggers such as bright lights and loud sounds.
- Sleep issues: Some people report that they have trouble sleeping throughout the night during withdrawal. Others who are dealing with withdrawal report that they sleep all night but wake up feeling tired and sleepy during the day. If you have serious concerns about your sleep, talk to your doctor and/or a sleep specialist.
- Suicidal thoughts: It’s possible for some individuals to experience suicidal thoughts when they stop taking Lexapro. These suicidal thoughts are probably related to untreated psychiatric conditions and withdrawal-related neurochemical changes. Regardless of the cause, it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention if suicidal thoughts occur.
- Sweating: Another symptom of withdrawal that many people experience is sweating. The sweating may occur throughout the day, but is most often reported at night. It is suspected that an interaction between serotonin and various hormones can trigger sweats in withdrawal.
Note: The above list of Lexapro withdrawal symptoms might be partial or incomplete. If you know of any additional Lexapro withdrawal symptoms, share them in the comments.
What determines the severity of Lexapro withdrawal symptoms?
The severity of symptoms that you experience during Lexapro withdrawal may be influenced by several variables. Keep in mind that no particular variable is necessarily of greater importance or influence than others. However, it is thought that duration of Lexapro treatment and the dosage used – are most influential in determining withdrawal difficulty.
- Treatment duration: How long you used Lexapro can determine how severe your withdrawal is. In most cases, the longer your treatment with Lexapro, the more severe your withdrawal symptoms are likely to be.
- Dosage of Lexapro: The dosage of Lexapro that you used during treatment may determine how challenging your withdrawal is. Higher-dose users tend to experience more severe withdrawal symptoms than lower dose users.
- Withdrawal rate: The speed at which you withdraw from Lexapro may determine how difficult your withdrawal symptoms are. A faster rate of withdrawal usually causes more severe symptoms than a gradual taper.
- Using other substances: Whether you use other substances such as medications and/or supplements might affect your withdrawal symptoms. Usually withdrawal symptoms are less severe among those who use other substances – compared to people who don’t take anything.
- Lifestyle: Lifestyle factors such as stress, sleep, social relationships, activity level, and eating habits may affect your withdrawal. If you live a healthy lifestyle – withdrawal probably won’t be as debilitating.
- Genetics: It is thought that genetics may influence speed of recovery from Lexapro withdrawal. Having certain genes (or epigenetic expressions) may speed up the withdrawal process, whereas having other genes may slow down the withdrawal process.
Best supplements for Lexapro withdrawal
Some people will report significant improvement in Lexapro withdrawal symptoms after taking certain supplements. Listed below are supplements that are thought to help ease withdrawal symptoms.
Never even consider taking these supplements without first confirming their safety with a medical doctor. You need to know if the supplements are safe for you to use before you begin using them. The last thing you need during Lexapro withdrawal is an adverse reaction from supplements.
Affiliate disclosure: The supplements below contain affiliate links which help this site earn money. That said, the links are to products that we think are high quality, reasonably-priced, and potentially-helpful for Lexapro withdrawal.
- L-tryptophan: This supplement may help restore low serotonin in areas of the brain to decrease withdrawal symptoms.
- Krill oil: This is a supplement that contains omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA – each of which may help stabilize brain activity.
- L-tyrosine: This supplement may help restore abnormal levels of dopamine in the brain to minimize withdrawal symptoms.
- Curcumin: This supplement is understood to decrease inflammation in the body, and in some cases, the brain.
- Melatonin: Anyone who’s having difficulty with sleep may benefit from trying melatonin.
- Magnesium: Magnesium can help improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety/stress from withdrawal.
- Vitamin B-Complex: Various B-vitamins are understood to help lower stress during withdrawal.
What’s the best way to withdraw from Lexapro?
There’s no optimal way to discontinue Lexapro, however, some general recommendations can be made.
- Psychiatric guidance: Always withdraw under the guidance and/or supervision of a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist will understand how to help you manage withdrawal symptoms from Lexapro.
- Tapering slowly: Tapering at a rate of 10% per month is suggested by some experts as being the best way to discontinue Lexapro after long-term use. A slow tapering regimen might lessen the severity of withdrawal.
- Healthy lifestyle: Staying as healthy as possible during the withdrawal process will help your brain return to its normal pre-Lexapro state as quickly as possible.
- Medications & supplements: Using medications and/or supplements that were approved by your doctor can be a great way to keep withdrawal symptoms to a minimum.
How long does Lexapro withdrawal last?
The length of Lexapro withdrawal can vary depending on the person. In most cases, withdrawal symptoms significantly improve within 1-2 months after a person’s final dose. That said, sometimes withdrawal symptoms can fade very quickly (in as little as a couple weeks) or require additional time (e.g. more than 3 months).
Some sources suggest that most people will notice improvement in withdrawal symptoms within 2-3 months of their last Lexapro dose. Keep in mind that improvement does not necessarily mean “fully recovered” from withdrawal. In general, it is recommended to avoid assuming that withdrawal should last any particular amount of time. Instead you should continue talking to your doctor and listening to your body.
Have you withdrawn from Lexapro?
If you’ve used Lexapro for any reasonable duration and withdrawn, be sure to share your experience in the comments section below. Sharing your experience helps others realize that they are not alone in the withdrawal process. If you’re unsure about what details to provide in your comment – we’ve compiled a list of questions that you could address in your comment. (Understand that you are not required to answer these questions to leave a comment).
- How long did you use Lexapro before stopping?
- At what rate did you discontinue Lexapro? (e.g. fast taper)
- For what medical condition did you take Lexapro?
- Why did you stop taking Lexapro?
- What was your dosage of Lexapro before withdrawing?
- What withdrawal symptoms have you experienced?
- Have you discovered any ways to reduce your withdrawal symptoms?