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Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms: How Long Do They Last?

Lexapro (Escitalopram) has emerged as one of the most popular antidepressant drugs in the United States. It works as an SSRI (selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and has approval to treat major depression in individuals over the age of 12. In addition to being utilized for depression, it is also prescribed for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It is strikingly similar to the drug “Celexa” in the fact that it contains just the (S)-stereoisomer (without the (R)-stereoisomer).

There is controversial evidence suggesting that Lexapro may be slightly more effective than Celexa. In some cases, Lexapro is used to treat social anxiety disorder, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and panic disorder. This is one of the most prescribed SSRI’s in the United States due to the fact that it has been found as one of the most effective. Most people stay on this medication until it either stops working or they are compelled to quit.

When a person quits, they may not expect to experience any significant withdrawal symptoms – especially if this is a person’s first SSRI. If you plan on stopping this medication, it is important to know what you should expect and prepare yourself for the symptoms. Most people experience a pretty severe withdrawal period when they come off of Lexapro, which goes to show the power of this drug.

Factors that influence Lexapro withdrawal

There are a few factors that are thought to influence the severity of withdrawal from Lexapro.  These include things like: time span (i.e. how many months or years you were on this drug), the dosage that you took, whether you quit cold turkey or tapered, and your individual physiology.

1. Time Span

How long were you taking Lexapro? In the event that you were on it for years, the withdrawal process is likely going to be longer for you than someone on it for months. In general, the longer you take Lexapro, the more intense the withdrawal process.

2. Dosage (10 mg to 20 mg)

Most people take anywhere from 10 mg to 20 mg of Lexapro. The recommended starting dose is 10 mg, but for some people this isn’t quite strong enough. Therefore most doctors continue increasing the dose to achieve the desired effect. Doses tend to increase up to 20 mg, and then it is up to the patient and doctor whether 20 mg needs to be exceeded. Keep in mind that the higher the dose you are on, the greater the difficulty of the withdrawal process.

3. Cold Turkey vs. Tapering

It is never recommended to quit Lexapro “cold turkey.” Although some have done it, quitting cold turkey leaves your brain in a state of chemical disarray. Some people do not have the patience to taper because they feel so crappy on the drug. If you are able to taper, try to work with your doctor to gradually reduce your dosage. The higher the dose you are on, the longer the tapering process should be.

4. Individual Physiology

To a lesser degree than the other factors, your individual physiology will play a role in determining how quickly you bounce back from the discontinuation symptoms. Some people find that they feel normal within a few months of quitting the drug, while others find that it takes months to start feeling a little bit better. Everyone responds differently and heals at a different pace.

Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms: List of Possibilities

Below are some symptoms that you may experience when you stop taking Lexapro. This is a collective of some common symptoms that people experience when they withdraw from this drug. You may only experience some of the symptoms listed below, but in any event, it is better to be mentally prepared for what you may experience so that you don’t become overwhelmed.

  • Anxiety: Most people will experience anxiety to a significant degree when stopping Lexapro. This is a drug that inhibits the reuptake of serotonin. If you have been taking it for an extended period of time and discontinue, your serotonin levels are likely lower than average – causing severe anxiety.  This is because your brain had become reliant upon the drug to increase serotonin and is no longer receiving it.
  • Appetite changes: You may experience changes in appetite when you first quit taking this drug. Some people notice that they aren’t quite as hungry and/or aren’t eating as much, while others regain appetite. Usually changes in appetite are opposite to your experience while on the drug.
  • Brain Zaps: It is common to experience “brain zaps” or sensations of electrical shocks throughout your brain when you stop taking Lexapro.  This is a common symptom that occurs when withdrawing from many different antidepressants.  These usually subside within a few weeks.
  • Concentration problems: One thing that most doctors will not tell you is that your concentration may be extremely poor during withdrawal. You are experiencing a ton of withdrawal symptoms which naturally detract from concentration, but the neurotransmitter levels are imbalanced – creating a state of brain fog.
  • Depersonalization: This involves feeling unlike your natural self. Most people feel depersonalized and when they try to describe it to someone else, the other person may just not understand what they mean. It can feel as though all natural emotions have been sucked out of the body and the person is lifeless. The emotions will eventually return as the person stays off of SSRI’s for awhile.
  • Depression: It is common to experience “rebound depression” when you quit taking Lexapro. It is a drug that was created to treat depression, so when you stop it, the depression will likely return. Many people notice that their depression is actually worse when they stop this drug – this is because the brain has become even more chemically imbalanced after taking this drug.
  • Dizziness: Many people report feeling dizziness, in some cases to the point of having “balance” issues. This dizziness can last for an extended period of time and may make life difficult to deal with. Recognize that this is a result of your brain trying to cope without stimulation from the drug.
  • Eye floaters: Some people report seeing “floaters” when they come off of Lexapro. Floaters are small shapes that “float” in and out of your field of vision. These are harmless and do not indicate that anything is wrong with your vision. Do your best not to panic and think that you are doomed if you see these.
  • Fatigue: It is very common to notice that you feel excessively tired throughout the day. The lethargy, tiredness, and fatigue may become so difficult, that you think it’s never going to end. This is likely due to your brain trying to restore itself to homeostasis.
  • Headaches: This is another extremely common symptom to experience when you withdraw from any drug – especially SSRI’s. If headaches are intense, do your best to relax – as many can be caused by tension. Also make sure that you are drinking plenty of water and consider taking headache relief medication if they become too difficult to deal with.
  • Insomnia: Some people are unable to fall asleep at night when they first stop Lexapro. This is usually a result of sleep pattern changes and increased anxiety. Some people find that taking a little melatonin supplement helps.
  • Irritability: If you are becoming increasingly irritable, do your best to control it without lashing out on others. It can be extremely difficult to control yourself when you feel as crappy as you do, but keep trying.
  • Libido changes: Most people notice that their sex life improves when they stop taking antidepressants. Lexapro is known to cause delayed orgasm and in some cases, inability to orgasm. When you stop taking this drug, your sex life should bounce back.
  • Mood swings: It is common to experience crazy mood swings when quitting this drug. One minute you may feel as though you’re going to recover and the next you may feel as if there is no hope. People may notice that you are acting especially irritable and angry. Realize that you don’t have much control over these during withdrawal.
  • Nausea: It is common to feel nauseated when you first stop taking an antidepressant. In some cases it may lead to vomiting. Do your best to deal with it and understand that it will go away.
  • Suicidal thoughts: When coming off of SSRI’s like Lexapo, it is very common to feel suicidal and experience suicidal thoughts. Although you may have felt suicidal before going on this drug, the intensity of these thoughts will likely be higher when you withdraw.
  • Sweating: Many people sweat more than average during the withdrawal period. You may sweat more than usual throughout the day and/or notice that you sweat excessively during your sleep.
  • Weight changes: Most people experience some degree of weight gain on Lexapro and other SSRI’s. When they come off of the drug, they may notice that they experience weight loss.

How long does Lexapro withdrawal last?

It really depends on a number of different factors including how long you’ve been on the drug and the dosage that you were taking. If you conducted a gradual taper, the symptoms that you experience during withdrawal may be less intense and last for a shorter duration than if you quit cold turkey. Unfortunately there is no exact timeline for determining how long you are going to experience withdrawal symptoms. It is important to recognize that most withdrawal symptoms persist for much longer than professionals think.

I have taken Lexapro and know that the withdrawal process is certainly not as trivial as most people make it out to be. If you withdraw from this medication, you can expect to experience some discontinuation symptoms. These symptoms may only last a few weeks, but in many cases they end up lasting months after the person has taken the last dose of their drug. I would suggest that if you used Lexapro for a year, used 90 days (i.e. 3 months) as a checkpoint.

Most people notice that their severe discontinuation symptoms tend to subside after about 90 days. If yours continue to persist beyond 90 days, just know that it’s most likely that your brain is still in disarray after SSRI usage for an extended period of time. One individual reported that he never fully returned to feeling like “himself” until 48 months had passed (4 years). Although most people will feel “normal” before a three year term, it is important to recognize that withdrawal effects can last months and in some cases, it takes over a year to fully recover.

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{ 645 comments… add one }
  • Bonnie August 12, 2018, 1:03 pm

    I am having trouble with insurance authorization of 40 mg of Lexapro. (The generic kind.) I didn’t know I was suppose to have it reauthorized every year in July. I have been on this amount for a number of years so I thought it would be automatic authorization.

    It is like all kinds of red tape. Any way I take Bupropion too but I have been without Lexapro close to 2 weeks. Lexapro has basically made me feel like a zombie and kept me from crying all the time. The side effects of withdrawal I have already.

    I actually want to get off the meds but not sure if I should contact psychiatrist tomorrow or continue on my own. I have a lot of serious medical issues. (Kidney transplant). The meds cause depression, diabetes, and osteoporosis plus several other issues. Anyway Lexapro just adds to the side effect issues.

  • Yaya August 10, 2018, 5:02 am

    I was on Ativan and lexapro. I have been off Ativan for over a month now. Withdrawal was hell. Was only on it 7 months. Now in week 2 of tapering off lexapro. Withdrawal not severe now, but the sweating is like someone is following me with a water hose and I’m a little dizzy. I am on 5mg now doing 2.5 next week. Then going to do every other day of 1.5 for 2 weeks, then off.

  • Chris August 8, 2018, 11:08 am

    Was on cipralex (escitalopram) which I believe is Lexapro for 5 years. Was up to 40mg a day and quit completely a week ago. Made it through the worst of it I think. Now just to get rid of these brain shocks…

  • Barry August 7, 2018, 1:55 pm

    Hi. My physician suggested I try to taper off Lexapro 10mg and I am on day 4 of a 2 week process. This will be my third attempt to stop Lexapro in the past 2-3 years. I have been on it since 2013. I am a male in my upper 50’s and started taking it due to stress at work.

    I am now working in another job with less stress so I want to try stopping once more. Both of my previous attempts to stop were not successful since the withdrawal symptoms were too much to take. The brain zaps were a bit scary at first since that is a very unusual sensation until you get used to the feeling.

    Luckily for me they only lasted a few seconds each time. But what has forced me to go back on Lexapro are the anxiety attacks that come over me and it’s very intense with little or no warning. I feel like I am hyper-ventilating and can’t catch my breath and my insides feel like they want to climb out.

    That may sound odd but when it happens it’s about the only way I can describe it. It really scares my wife when she sees me going through those since she feels helpless. I have some anxiety meds I can take (if I have them with me) at the time that will help temporarily, but I don’t want rely on those for a quick fix.

    Without knowing how many attacks I may have to deal with or when they show up is what has pushed me back on the Lexapro each time. I am hoping 3rd time is the charm.

  • William August 4, 2018, 2:42 am

    I was on 20mg for three years. Tapered down to 10mg and the symptoms were fuzziness, and insomnia. However it was not very bad and was over in a little over a weeks time. Now I’m 6 days into stopping altogether and a lot more insomnia.

    This time there is some crankiness as well but again not so bad as to be uncontrollable. One of the things I see consistently is a whole host of symptoms regarding withdrawals, but I really think a lot of them can be chalked up to insomnia.

  • Heidi July 4, 2018, 1:53 am

    Hello. I have been on 5 mg of lexapro for two months and I got the ok from my doctor today to begin tapering. My taper schedule is 2.5 mg for two weeks and then 2.5 mg every other day for two weeks and then I can stop.

    I was originally prescribed this medicine for events in my life that culminated and became too much for me to handle all at once. I was having panic attacks multiple times a day. I have never taken any sort of drug like lexapro before and did not know what to expect.

    So my doctor prescribed me the 5 mg with the knowledge that I would be on it only a month or two, or until I could get a grip on what was happening in my life and let my brain settle.

    I currently take a liquid multivitamin which has the B12 and B6. I’m thinking about taking the omega fish oil and wondered what dose to take for that and also what brands do you guys like? Also, do you think I would need any extra B12 or B6 where my multivitamin has these already?

    Thank you so much and God bless all the people out there right now dealing with withdrawal, depression, and anxiety.

    • Mike July 12, 2018, 10:54 pm

      Hi Heidi, Your situation sounds a lot like mine – General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I was in a bad way with work and two teenage children and started with the warm flushes and lack of staying asleep, etc. It became common and being sleep deprived, I was desperate for relief and started Lexapro one week after filling my script and being diagnosed.

      (All of my blood work was clear with respect to blood sugar, thyroid, hormones, PSA, etc). I went the 5mg route in mid may as well to “see” how I did and it was not pleasant. Insomnia, lost 7lbs, more anxious, tired, no sex drive (after 40 days on 5mgs). I did get hydroxyzine for sleep help and it also seems to help a bit with my anxiety.

      I am on day 12 of my taper to 2.5. I did not do what the doctor recommended which is the same as yours. I broke my 10 mgs to 5 and then halved again. Some were inconsistent so I took the “bigger” ones and have a few nights of ear ringing and some vivid dreams and insomnia but not terrible.

      I was scared to go directly to 2.5 mgs immediately since I had a pretty harsh reaction to 5mg which what is supposedly a “low” dose. I probably should have stayed at 3.5 to 4 for more than a few days as around day 10-12 I got some withdrawal.

      That has passed and I am on now about 3 days of just 2.5 trying to assure I’m over this initial withdrawal. I’ll decide how to finish to get to none. I’m hoping I can manage my anxiety with hydroxyzine after I am off of the Lex. Good luck and keep me posted on how you do.

    • Mike July 28, 2018, 4:51 pm

      How is this going for you? I am in the same boat.

      • Heidi August 2, 2018, 2:00 am

        Hi Mike, On July 3rd I started with halving my 5 mg lexapro tablets. So I was taking roughly 2.5 mg every day for two weeks. My plan was to see how I felt after two weeks on 2.5 mg to decide if I would drop to 1.25 mg. I had a couple of days with bad headaches and like you I also had vivid dreams and little bit of dizziness.

        That started to straighten out after the first week and I felt ok. So on week two, I felt good enough to go ahead and break my 2.5 mg into 1.25 mg. I had a pill cutter – the thing sometimes cut the pills ok and sometimes it didn’t do such a good job and I wound up with a slightly larger pill.

        So what I did was take the larger ones in the first three days, and then the rest of the time I took the smaller cut ones. So I did a two week taper from July 3rd to July 16th at 2.5 mg. Then from July 17th to July 30th, I did another two week taper at 1.25 mg. On July 31st (last night) I decided to go ahead and not take anymore lexapro.

        It has been a full 24 hours since my last 1.25 mg dose and so far so good. I am keeping myself occupied and other than a tiny bit of dizziness, I feel pretty good. And honestly I am not sure if I am a bit dizzy because of not sleeping too well. But that is another story for another blog.

        I have hot flashes due to going through menopause, so I am not really sure if my dizziness is withdrawal or tiredness. But all in all so far so good. How are you doing? I go to see my doctor tomorrow to give her an update of how things have gone.

        Everyone’s physiology is different. Are you under the care of your doctor while you are doing your taper? Keep me posted and take care. – Heidi

        • Mike August 6, 2018, 7:34 pm

          Hi Heidi, Great news, and yes, I am under the care of my GP. I have leveled out nicely after some withdrawal a few weeks ago as described in an earlier post. I am now doing exactly what you are doing (a little over a week into reducing to 1.25mg) and am now every other day with about 1.25 or so and have 3 doses left.

          By this weekend I will be completely off. Since my insomnia and rough nights ~3 weeks ago after dropping to 2.5, I have been really doing great. I have had no problems whatsoever other than a little bit of dizziness here and there. I’ve had little no anxiety in about 10 days and my appetite is back fully.

          As I progress off of Lex, I really think it was making my anxiety worse for the 40-50 days I was on it. I am really back to my old self and my anxiety has for the most part disappeared. I’ll be curious to see what happens, if anything, once I’m off totally.

          I am hoping that I am helping with taking Mg and a multivitamin daily and also exercising as much as I can (walk 2 – 3 miles a day). I’ve changed the way I deal with my kids and have smoothed a few things out at work. I have been in counseling over this period which has helped and I’m actually seeing a psychiatrist this Friday.

          I figured since I’ve been through this only bout of anxiety over the past 4 months (first time in my life), I’d get as much help as I can. If I continue on like this, I hopefully will have all of this past me. I am also taking Advocare Clear Mood and I have tapered off of Lex.

  • Lene June 29, 2018, 9:04 am

    I have been off Escitalopram for 3 weeks now and it’s been a fight. I’m not giving up, as I no longer want to take this medication. Sad part is, my own provider has given up on me doing this, therefore I’m looking for a new provider.

    See, one thing I’ve learned in this life – people will give up on you way quicker than you will give up on yourself. The best part about coming off this medication, is my bad days aren’t as bad anymore… if you hang in there, it will get better. 🙃

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