How Long Does It Take For Lexapro To Work?


If you’ve ever wondered, “How Long Does It Take For Lexapro To Work?” you’re not alone. It can be one of the first questions people ask as they seek relief from the symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the mechanism of Lexapro, its effectiveness in treating depression and anxiety, potential safety concerns, and the crucial role it plays in a holistic treatment plan. Whether you’re considering Lexapro for yourself or someone you care about, understanding its timeline and impact can be invaluable in the journey toward improved mental health.

how long does it take lexapro to work

What Is Lexapro?

Lexapro, the brand name for escitalopram, and is commonly prescribed medication for both anxiety and depression. It is classed as a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), and works by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain, consequently improving mood and reducing anxiety symptoms. 

SSRIs increase levels of serotonin in the brain by blocking the reabsorption (or reuptake) by nerve cells after it has been released into the synapses. This increases the concentration of serotonin within the synaptic gap and means that more serotonin is available for communication between the brain cells. 

Lexapro is considered an effective and well-tolerated medication for many individuals experiencing depression or anxiety disorders. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate treatment and dosage based on your specific needs and medical history. 

How Long Does It Take for Lexapro to Work for Depression?

It typically takes between 4-6 weeks of taking Lexapro consistently to start to see its full therapeutic effect for depression. While many doctors recommend taking it regularly for at least 6 weeks before deciding if it is effective, some people may notice improvements in mood or energy even sooner. 

Depression is often associated with an imbalance of neurotransmitters, including serotonin which Lexapro directly increases as explained above. The elevation of serotonin helps to improve mood, reduce feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and increase interest in activities. 

It’s important to note that while Lexapro can be highly effective in treating depression, individual responses to the medication may vary. The prescribed dosage and a person’s particular physiology can both have an impact on reaction time. 

Lexapro should not be expected to act as a ‘magic pill’ for depression, and while it will help to alleviate symptoms of depression, it will not ‘cure’ a depressive episode. Accessing talking therapies with a trained mental health professional is the best way to recover from and combat depression. 

How Long Does It Take for Lexapro to Work for Anxiety?

Similarly to those experiencing depression, those experiencing anxiety can expect to take Lexapro for 4-6 weeks before starting to experience its full therapeutic benefit. The timeline for each individual is unique, and the relief of anxiety symptoms will depend largely on their severity. 

Anxiety disorders, including generalised anxiety, social phobias and more, often involve an imbalance in neurotransmitters, including serotonin. As it does with depressed individuals, the increase in serotonin within the synaptic gaps caused by Lexapro helps to stabilise mood and alleviate symptoms such as excessive worry, restlessness, and physical tension. 

It is crucial to continue taking Lexapro as prescribed in order to achieve and maintain the desired therapeutic effect, even if anxiety symptoms start improving. Permanent ‘rewiring’ of the brain can take months, and it’s important to stay with your course of treatment as advised by your doctor. 

Lexapro is often used as part of a comprehensive treatment approach for anxiety disorders. In addition to medication, therapy (such as cognitive-behavioural therapy) can be an essential component of anxiety management. 

Is Lexapro Dangerous?

When used as prescribed and under the supervision of a healthcare provider, Lexapro is generally considered safe. Like all medications, it can have side effects, but most are mild and temporary, including nausea, dizziness, and dry mouth.

Less common but potentially serious side effects, such as allergic reactions or changes in mood, should be discussed with your healthcare provider promptly. It’s important to follow your provider’s guidance on dosage and report any unusual or concerning symptoms. 

You may have read online that some SSRI medications, like Lexapro, carry a warning that they may increase risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviours, especially in young adults and adolescents. However, it’s crucial to note that this risk is primarily associated with the early stages of treatment when individuals may not yet experience the full benefits of the medication. 

Lexapro is not typically dangerous when taken alone, but when taken in combination with other medications, such as blood thinners or herbal medications, there can be risks for harmful drug interactions. Please ensure that your prescribing doctor is aware of any and all medication that you are taking to prevent any unintended pharmacological interactions. 

In addition to potential risks of interactions with prescribed medications, Lexapro can negatively interact with recreational drugs such as alcohol. For depressant medications it can potentiate the sedative effects, and with stimulant drugs such as cocaine it can be particularly dangerous

Summary – How Long Does It Take Lexapro to Work?

Most people can expect to start experiencing the therapeutic benefits of Lexapro within 4-6 weeks. However, patience is essential during the early stages of treatment, and keeping in regular, and honest contact with your prescribing physician is crucial to protecting your wellbeing and health. 

Remember that while medication can be a valuable tool for managing depression and anxiety, there is no magic cure. It is just one part of what should be a comprehensive treatment plan that works on your mental, physical, and social health to help you live the best life possible.

Clinically Reviewed By

Brittany Hunt

Brittany Hunt is an internationally experienced clinician, specialised in treating addictions and co-occurring disorders. Having worked in the public and private sector, she utilises holistic and evidence-based approaches designed to empower the patients in their recovery journeys. A graduate of The University of Auckland, she has a Bachelor of Health Sciences majoring in Mental Health and Addictions, a diploma in Psychology and Counselling and a Post-Graduate degree in Health Sciences, majoring in Addictions. She is a fully registered practitioner under the Drug and Alcohol Association of Aotearoa New Zealand (DAPAANZ).

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