Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
If you’re dealing with depression or certain forms of anxiety, you’ve probably heard of a medication called Lexapro®. It’s one of several antidepressant medications often prescribed to treat psychiatric disorders like depression.
Just as with any other medication, there are some side effects associated with taking Lexapro. Some people may experience them, while others may not. With Lexapro (and some other similar medications), side effects can be especially prevalent in the first week or so.
Before you start taking Lexapro, it can be helpful to understand what these side effects are and when you should speak with a healthcare professional about them.
Lexapro is often called by its generic name, escitalopram.
These medications work by boosting levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in your brain, which can then help you maintain a healthy mental state.
As mentioned before, escitalopram is used in the treatment of depression, as well as for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) — which is diagnosed when people deal with excessive worry for six or more months.
There are common side effects associated with escitalopram.
Regardless of whether you take the tablet or liquid form of the medication, potential adverse reactions include:
Sex drive changes
During the first week of taking escitalopram, some people have reported these side effects to be most severe.
Increased sweating, headaches, nausea, sleep issues and nervousness may be more prominent during the first week of use.
For more on Lexapro and tiredness as a side effect, check out: Does Lexapro Make You Tired?
Luckily, these feelings and adverse effects typically start to subside after a few weeks of treatment and be long gone after a few months of treatment.
There are also more serious side effects that, while very rare, are important to understand.
These include high blood pressure, an elevated heart rate, low sodium levels and serotonin syndrome, which is a potentially life-threatening condition. Another potential risk is low angle glaucoma.
If you experience anything that seems severe, reach out to a medical professional immediately.
Before taking any new medication, you should let your healthcare provider know if you have any other medical conditions or if you’re on any other medications so that you can avoid possible drug interactions.
You should also let them know if you are allergic to anything so you can avoid a potential allergic reaction.
A healthcare provider will be able to monitor your side effects when taking escitalopram — especially in the first few weeks.
Some people may be advised to take a benzodiazepine along with escitalopram for the first few weeks, as benzodiazepines can help reduce the early adverse effects of an SSRI and make the adjustment period easier.
According to a 2008 study taking an SSRI with a benzodiazepine can help regulate anxiety quickly. It can also help patients deal with the agitation that can occur when you first start taking a SSRI.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America also indicates that SSRIs and benzodiazepines can be paired to treat GAD and help you adjust to taking an SSRI.
But you should know that benzodiazepines are not intended for long-term use because of potential for addiction. So, after a few weeks, your healthcare provider will likely wean you off of any benzodiazepines.
So you’re considering starting — or have already started — taking Lexapro to help treat your depression or GAD. Congrats! Hopefully, this is the beginning of becoming your best you again.
While this medication is considered safe and effective according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is prescribed to millions of people every year for the treatment of everything from major depressive disorder to, on some occasions, bipolar disorder, it doesn’t come without potential adverse reactions and side effects — some of which may be particularly apparent in the first couple weeks of use.
Some of the most common side effects of Lexapro in the first week include nausea, dizziness, sexual side effects and more. Luckily, they usually subside on their own.
Your healthcare provider will give you everything you need to know about getting through your first week of Lexapro, which may include a benzodiazepine.
The most important thing is keeping an open line of communication with your healthcare provider — not just in your first week of taking Lexapro, but throughout the duration of your treatment.
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.
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