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Celexa (Citalopram) Withdrawal Symptoms: How Long Will They Last?

Celexa (Citalopram) is a drug used to help treat symptoms of major depression. It is considered an SSRI (selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor) which means it influences the serotonin in the brain to help ward off depressive symptoms. It is also used as an off-label treatment for anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). For many individuals, this drug is effective and serves the intended purpose of treating depression.

The problem with Celexa is that many people find that it leads to unbearable side effects including: weight gain and sexual dysfunction. Not only can this drug provoke unwanted side effects, in some cases it just doesn’t work as well as expected. There have also been disputes as to whether the R-stereoisomer of the drug has any effect. Some have argued that it is better to take Lexapro, which is essentially Celexa without the R-stereoisomer.

In any regard, most people that take Celexa will end up wanting to withdraw from it eventually. Most people do not want to be on antidepressants for life in order to cope with depression. There are simply too many side effects and most people notice that the antidepressant effects tend to wear off over time. In any event, if you withdraw from this medication, it is pretty much guaranteed that you are going to experience withdrawal symptoms.

Factors that influence Celexa withdrawal include…

There are various factors that play a role in influencing withdrawal from any psychiatric medication. These factors include things like: time span, dosage, your physiology, and whether you decided to quit cold turkey or conducted a gradual taper.

1. Time Span

How long were you taking Celexa? In general, the longer you take an antidepressant, the more difficult it will be to withdraw from. Your brain becomes accustomed to getting the extra serotonin activity as a result of the SSRI that you are taking. When you stop the drug, your brain isn’t get the extra serotonin that it was getting and may have a tough time readjusting to functioning without Celexa.

2. Dosage (10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg)

Most of the time people are on a 20 mg dose of Celexa, but it can be administered at doses up to 40 mg per day. Some people may be on smaller doses than 20 mg, but in general, 20 mg is considered the standard dose. In most cases, the greater the amount of the drug that you have taken, the tougher it is to withdraw from.

3. Individual Physiology

In many cases, withdrawal symptoms are largely due to individual reactions to the drug. One person may experience extreme withdrawal symptoms that last months, while another person may feel back to 100% after a couple weeks of discontinuation. Many individual factors including: withdrawal sensitivity, environment, social support, and physiology can have an influence. If you experience a more extreme withdrawal than most, it could be largely due to individual differences.

4. Cold Turkey vs. Tapering

How did you quit taking Celexa? Did you stop abruptly without conducting a gradual taper? Or did you conduct a gradual taper over the course of a couple months? In most cases, the more slowly and cautiously you taper off of this medication, the easier it is to readjust to functioning without the drug.

If you quit cold turkey, it leaves most people in a state of mental disarray and chaos and the symptoms may be more severe. If you were on a high dose of Celexa (i.e. 40 mg), the weaning process should take longer than someone on 10 mg.

Celexa Withdrawal Symptoms: List of Possibilities

Below are a list of common symptoms that you may experience upon withdrawal from Celexa. Understand that you may experience a few of the symptoms, none of the symptoms, or most of the symptoms – it all depends on your individual circumstances. This list was created to help people so that they know what may occur during withdrawal.

  • Anxiety: The anxiety that you experience during withdrawal may be pretty severe. It may be so severe that you feel nervous everywhere you go and/or have panic attacks. This is a result of your brain being left without reuptake inhibition of serotonin.
  • Brain zaps: Most SSRIs can lead to a person experiencing “brain zaps” or electrical shock sensations upon withdrawal. These can be very uncomfortable and actually feel like your head is plugged into an electrical socket. Just know that these will subside the longer you are off the drug.
  • Concentration problems: Many people report that they are unable to focus during withdrawal. It may be difficult to complete work-related tasks or school work during withdrawal. In many cases the concentration problems are due to the fact that physical symptoms distract our mental focus. Additionally a person may feel mentally slow and/or foggy when they stop the medication – this is likely due to changes in levels of neurotransmitters.
  • Confusion: Your cognitive functioning can become impaired when you quit taking Celexa to the point of experiencing general confusion. This confusion may be a result of memory retrieval problems, but could also just be confused thinking.
  • Crying spells: Some people report increased depression to the point of crying spells. Low serotonin can cause people to cry excessively. You may cry more than you have in your entire life during a withdrawal. Know that these spells will lessen in severity and eventually stop.
  • Depression: Most people feel significantly worse when they stop taking Celexa in regards to depression. Many people feel as if their depression is actually worse than before they took this medication. This is a result of their brain no longer inhibiting the re-uptake of serotonin to the degree that occurred on the medication. It will take an extended period of time to fully recover from the withdrawal depression.
  • Diarrhea: Some people experience an upset stomach to the point of diarrhea during their withdrawal.  This is not as common of a symptom as others, but can be difficult to deal with if you are dealing with this.  An easy solution for coping with this is to get some over-the-counter Imodium.
  • Dizziness: Feeling dizzy is one of the most common symptoms to experience during SSRI withdrawal. If you suddenly stop taking Celexa cold turkey, the dizziness is thought to be longer lasting and more profound than during a gradual taper. Either way, you are likely going to experience some degree of dizziness when you quit.  The longer you are off the drug, the more this symptom will improve.
  • Fatigue: You may feel excessively fatigued for awhile after you quit Celexa. It may be difficult to get out of bed in the morning or even make it through a work day. The tiredness and lethargy may be pretty severe. Just recognize that this will gradually improve and your energy levels will start to return over time.
  • Headaches: This is another classic symptom of SSRI withdrawal. Some people feel minor headaches for awhile, yet for others the headaches are pounding and feel more like migraines. Having a headache with dizziness is certainly uncomfortable – but both of these will gradually improve.
  • Insomnia: Since some people take Celexa for treating insomnia, it is no wonder that they may actually experience insomnia when they stop taking it. Additionally even if you have never had insomnia before taking this drug, you may experience it during withdrawal.
  • Irritability: Most people report a high amount of irritability in the first few weeks when they discontinue this drug. This is because the brain no longer is receiving the calming effect of the drug and it can be difficult to regulate emotions.
  • Memory problems: It is common to experience memory problems to the point that you think you have lost your memory. Although you haven’t likely lost any memory, your thinking may be impaired so that your memory retrieval is impaired. As you recover during withdrawal, this will eventually heal itself.
  • Mood swings: It’s very common to have bad mood swings when you stop taking Celexa. One minute you may feel pretty good, the next you may feel more depressed than ever. Just understand that these mood swings are all part of withdrawal. They may persist for a long time, but will eventually subside.
  • Nausea: Some people experience nausea when they first quit this drug. You may feel nauseated all day and in some cases, want to vomit. Most people do not have nausea extreme enough to lead to vomiting, but it can be a tough withdrawal symptom to deal with.
  • Sleep changes: It is very likely that your sleep cycle will be affected when you withdraw from this drug. You may notice that you have crazy dreams and/or that you aren’t able to get a good night’s sleep. You may sleep during the day and be unable to fall asleep at night. Just know that things will return to normal if given enough time.
  • Suicidal thoughts: It is very common to experience suicidal thoughts when discontinuing an antidepressant. Any SSRI that is withdrawn from is likely to lead a person to feeling suicidal. Many doctors view this as a worsening in depression, when in reality it is a result of antidepressants causing suicidality upon withdrawal.
  • Weight changes: Most people gain weight when they take Celexa – this is a result of serotonin changes. When a person stops taking this drug, they will likely drop the weight that they gained while taking the drug.  For more information read about antidepressants and weight gain.

Celexa Withdrawal Timeline: How long does it last?

Most doctors will tell you that the withdrawal symptoms should subside within a few weeks of withdrawal. If your symptoms subside within a few weeks, consider yourself lucky and in the minority. Most people experience withdrawal effects over a month after they have quit their medication. I recommend giving yourself at least 90 days before evaluating the withdrawal symptoms.

I have gone through my fair share of antidepressant withdrawals – including that from Celexa and have found that three months time is good for re-evaluation. The problem for most people is that the symptoms are so severe in the first few weeks of withdrawal that they feel as if their life will never be the same. During withdrawal it is important to do your best not to get caught up in the symptoms – rather focus on what you can do to recover as fast as possible.

Things that will help you recover quicker include: eating healthy, forcing yourself to get some light exercise, and getting a proper night’s sleep. If you are struggling to come to terms with symptoms and/or cope, be sure to talk to a therapist or professional about what you are experiencing. It can also be very helpful to talk to others on forums that are also going through Celexa withdrawal – many people that have experienced it are better to talk to because they actually “get it.”

Feel free to share your experience with the withdrawal process in the comments section below. This may give someone else some reassurance that they are not alone in dealing with difficult symptoms. I personally have withdrawn from this medication and know that it’s not easy, but I also know that as enough time passes, you will eventually experience a full recovery.

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{ 1207 comments… add one }
  • Tracy September 19, 2018, 8:18 pm

    Just came to this site to see what withdrawals symptoms look like for a friend… I helped my son come off several prescription drugs several years ago, antidepressant, anti-anxiety, etc… through several forums found a book that kept coming up in discussions, The Mood Cure by Julia Ross.

    Had my son take the tests in there and put him on the recommended protocol. I am not saying it was an easy transition, but he recovered surprisingly quick considering. Spent several hundred dollars over a period of a couple of months on neurotransmitters and supplements but so well worth it!

    He is still on some of the supplements but has not taken another prescription since. If anxiety hits, on top of recommended supplements, he uses Rescue Remedy, Passionflower tincture and CBD oil. He also gets out in nature as much as possible. Best of luck and bless you all.

  • Doreen September 18, 2018, 5:50 pm

    I have now been off Celexa for approximately 8 weeks after having taken 20 mg daily for the past 10 years. Prior to the Celexa I was on Prozac for 17 years and prior to the Prozac various other antidepressants. I tapered the Celexa very slowly under the guidance of my psychiatrist.

    The withdrawal symptoms have been rough but I have discovered a supplement in particular that has helped – it’s called Glutathione and I take it twice daily. I also started taking Truehope EMP Advanced (combination of minerals for brain health).

    Both are expensive but I feel they have really helped. I also see an acupuncturist (I have other health issues) and she feels the Glutathione is especially worth taking and recommended I take for another 1 or 2 months. (I know I am very fortunate in that I can afford such.)

  • DW September 17, 2018, 6:39 pm

    I started talking citalopram in April. Started at 10 mg and after about a month or so went up to 20. I was taking for anxiety, no depression. I think it really was helping me. Very little side effects when I started.

    Thought it was great until about a month after starting the 20 mg, my hair started thinning greatly. I asked my doc who ordered blood tests, all were fine, I feel great otherwise. So, needless to say, I weaned really quick.

    Only went back down to 10 mg for about 1 week, then1 week of every other day. I noticed as some other have commented, I felt so great after the first 4 days or so after stopping then I started having side effects from the withdrawal, mostly brain zaps with slight dizziness.

    Frustrating but I get through the day. It’s been about 7-10 days of brain zaps and they are getting less intense. 2 questions: Has anyone been on a plane with brain zaps? Going on vacation in 4 more days, worried about the flight. Anyone have hair thinning?

    • Steve September 17, 2018, 10:15 pm

      No involuntary twitching or hair loss for me fortunately, though I have experienced short periods of not being able to sit still. As I continue to discontinue from 20 mg, I’m finding relief for most symptoms though taking fish oil, vitamin B, magnesium and theanine, the latter a key ingredient in green tea. Good luck and may your symptoms subside soon!

  • David September 15, 2018, 5:52 pm

    I am vacation and forgot my citalopram 40mg. A day it’s been about 8 days I feel fine but there is a lot of swelling in both my lower legs and ankles. Is this a possible side effect of not taking it? I have been eating a lot of seafood and salty foods.

    • DW September 17, 2018, 6:29 pm

      Hello, did you fly to your destination? Swelling of legs/ankles is common after flying. I have this problem, if you wear compression socks, you shouldn’t swell. Or at least not as much.

  • Travis September 14, 2018, 10:39 pm

    Hello, I was prescribed Citalopram for general anxiety. I did not take correctly, skip days, double up on others, then finally took for 30 to 40 straight days. Some days did take extra. I developed muscle twitches that freaked me out. So I quit cold turkey.

    That was 4 & 1/2 months ago, I still have really bothersome twitches along with those “falling asleep like body jerks”. Very small like body twitches as well. Can this be Citalopram withdrawal related? Huge Anxiety fears about ALS.

    Most twitching (fasciculations) in calves and feet but felt and seen nearly overheard. Any thoughts please. Thank you, Travis

    • Kerry September 18, 2018, 7:23 am

      I’m on day 13 of cold turkey from 30mg of tablets, I feel like hell. I can’t stop crying I can’t sleep and I’m vile to be around.

      DO NOT NOT DO WHAT I HAVE DONE. IT DOES NOT WORK AND IT FEELS HORRENDOUS.

      • Katie September 18, 2018, 4:38 pm

        I felt the same way for a few weeks. It took me just over 5 weeks to start feeling about 95% better (minus 5% for occasional panic attack, but they are usually induced by coffee or traffic or something similar.) This takes time! But it can be done!

  • Jerome September 11, 2018, 5:20 pm

    I been on Celexa for 10 years, It worked like a champ for my anger. I did not like all the side effects and am bent on getting my boy to a natural state. With no powerful mind drugs. I dropped the amount in half and over 2 weeks tapered off.

    I am going on 2 weeks with none in my system. I actually use a CBD oil to help with the initial anger issue and it was amazing. Usually if I miss my Celexa dose, within a few hours I am a jerk. Straight up rage. CBD took care of that.

    Now other than those stupid mind jolts, I am doing awesome. I got tons of life issue we all have to deal with and I have just the CBD. No problem. Deal with 1 thing at a time and off we go.

  • Tracey September 6, 2018, 6:20 pm

    In February, I developed Gastritis. My doctors are trying to figure out what is causing it. I have taken Citalopram 40 mg for about 10 years. We are going to taper me off of that to see if that’s causing the gastritis. I tried to come off of them before but it was horrible and I couldn’t do it.

    I’m gonna push through this time in hopes my other symptoms will disappear. My psychiatrist has me on a taper plan to go to 30 mg for 2 weeks, 20 mg for 2 weeks, and then 10 mg for 2 weeks.

    I have two more days before I’m supposed to go to 20 mg. But I might hold off for at least a month each. I want to take it slow but I also want to see if this fixes my other symptoms.

  • Natty September 5, 2018, 5:27 pm

    I was on Celexa aka “Citalopram” 10mg for a little over two years. I had a little anxiety as long I can remember so when a friend told me about Celexa I got really excited and mentioned it to my doctor and she prescribed it to me. I must say it did really helped with my anxiety.

    But after taking it for a little over a year I started to noticed myself that sometime I’m so forgetful and don’t really have that much emotion towards anything. I could careless about anyone or anything. So I decided to get off it.

    I talked to my doctor and she gave me instructions on how to taper off from it. Yesterday was my last day taking 1/2 of what I was taking. This past Saturday I had an anxiety attacked while was working at the store. I was freaking out for no reason. I felt like my blood was rushing up to my brain.

    So what I did was I tried to relax, take a deep breath and went to the bathroom sat on the toilet until it went away. It lasted about several minutes but it seem like it was forever. Now that I’m completely done with the medication, how long would it stay in my system?

    Also, how long will the withdrawals goes away. I need someone to tell me that I will be okay and this will go away soon. I just want to feel normal again. I would never go on this medication ever again if I don’t have severe anxiety to begin with.

  • Ryan September 1, 2018, 7:17 am

    About 10 years ago I was put on 20 mg Celexa for anxiety. About 4 years ago I starting having extremely bad panic attacks and I was eventually put on 80mg. I was on 80 for about a year and then went down to 60. After another year I dropped down to 40.

    I have been on 40 for over 2 years now and I just tried to get back down to 20. THIS SUCKS!! These withdraw symptoms are unbearable. It has been about 4 weeks now and I am constantly dizzy, feel short of breath (even though I know I’m really not) and get really irritated at stupid things.

    When I am working out, the feelings taper down but then come back a few hours later. How long are these withdraws going last? I really don’t want to go back up.

    • Katie September 5, 2018, 3:44 pm

      Hi Ryan, I don’t have experience with that length or dosage of the medication, but it sounds like your goals and what your doctor is prescribing aren’t in line with each other. Maybe it is time to consider seeing another healthcare professional?

      I will be going to a different doctor after this. I have lost a lot of faith and trust in him after so easily being prescribed something where none of these warnings were discussed me with. Maybe some intensive therapy and a medication plan might help you – my father and I have similar forms of anxiety and he has been prescribed Valium for at least 25 years – I am not sure he takes anything for depression.

      From everything I have been reading today though, panic attacks seem to be more of your mind going haywire on a runaway train – and this gives me hope that I can learn coping methods and mental strengthening exercises to get these to stop.

      You work out so you already understand being kind to your body is important. I hope you find the answers you are looking for and the right kind of help you need. This forum has been wonderful just knowing I am not alone in this, and nor are you.

  • Jennifer August 27, 2018, 9:03 pm

    Hi all – I am in the ridiculous situation of being on Celexa for five months at 6.5 mg. It actually did help some, although I apparently have a genetic issue which makes SSRIs a bad choice for me. Due to that issue and side effects I started tapering about six weeks ago.

    I thought it would be easy since low dose and short time, but it’s been difficult: insomnia, depression, etc. I’m using 5-HTP to help the transition, but I’m terrified to go down again. I’m down to 4 mg, having gone down twice – 1.5 mg the first time, 1 mg the second time. It’s been two weeks since my last taper.

    I really want to get this done with so I can go on some more potent natural remedies. Also I don’t want to end this in the winter, nor do I want to end up on this stuff forever. My doctor suggested going cold turkey at this point since I’m having such severe symptoms with each step down, she doesn’t think going cold turkey could possibly be any worse.

    I’m not sure I’m on board with this from what I’ve read, but seriously I can’t just keep tapering forever. I’m also a bit concerned this is just my symptoms reemerging. Which, again, I could treat naturally if I could just get off the Celexa. I’d appreciate advice. Thanks.

    • Katie August 31, 2018, 5:49 pm

      I was on 20mg for 3 months this summer: tapered from 20mg to 10mg over the course of 2 weeks and felt no changes. Decided to go cold turkey from the 10mg and had SEVERE physical symptoms which lasted for a little over a week (vertigo, dizziness, headaches, stomach upset and indigestion (felt like food poisoning) and SEVERE panic attacks from simple daily acts like drinking coffee and having to sit in traffic – i.e. had to leave my car at a bank and pay an Uber to take me the rest of the way home even after trying to use a Valium to slow my heart rate back down and stop the tingling in my hands.)

      Luckily (?) I had decided to leave my job at the start of July so I didn’t have that responsibility looming over my head. If you do decide to go cold turkey, I would suggest looking into short-term disability at work, or taking off a week to just deal with the physical symptoms and making sure you take it easy and get light exercise and eat well in the weeks following (this has been difficult for me since I have no appetite and anything besides walking gets my heart beating in a scary way.)

      Tomorrow marks three weeks off of it and I am still having panic attacks, but I no longer have the suicidal thoughts I was having while on Celexa. I think the drug did nothing for my depression but helped majorly with my anxiety while I was taking it.

      Now that I am off of it, my depression is “back to normal” (which I would rather deal with than how dark my brain/thoughts became while on it) and my anxiety is now @#%king crippling. Hoping with more time and a healthier lifestyle and therapy when I can afford it will be the best thing for me.

    • Kristen August 31, 2018, 9:40 pm

      From what I’ve read, everyone has wildly different reactions to taking and weaning off of SSRIs. I went from 40mg to 20 with my only symptom being extreme tiredness, but other people have brain zaps with a 5mg step down. While recovery from mental illness is always a waiting game, it sounds like you have definite reasons for wanting to at least try what your doctor is suggesting.

      But you’ll definitely want to monitor your symptoms and know who to call if it gets bad. Taking time off work like Katie suggested is definitely not a bad idea if you can; I’ll probably be doing that when I come off for good.

      Also, I can’t stress enough how important it is to go to therapy/support groups or make sure someone around you (friend, pastor, someone) knows what you’re going through so that you have someone to lean on and to look out for symptoms you might miss. I wish you luck in whatever you decide to do.

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