If you suddenly stop taking Lexapro (escitalopram), you may experience symptoms of withdrawal. Lexapro is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), and this type of medication has long been associated with withdrawal symptoms. While doctors still refer to these symptoms as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, many people believe the name minimizes the seriousness of the problem.
If you've decided, with your doctor to come off your medication, the quitting process can be difficult. Common symptoms of withdrawal include dizziness, muscle tension, chills, crying, and brain fog.
About Lexapro (Escitalopram)
Lexapro (escitalopram) is a prescription medication used to treat depression and anxiety. It belongs to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). In the UK, escitalopram is sold under the name brand name cipralex.
Causes of Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms
Antidepressants are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States. Of the more than 40 million people who take them in a given month, about one-quarter have been taking them for more than 10 years. Often, long-term use is linked to fear of relapse of their symptoms or withdrawal.
People experience symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal because of the way SSRIs work in the brain. These drugs affect the levels of serotonin, a type of mood-regulating neurotransmitter in the brain.
Most SSRIs take time to build up in the body; that's why people typically don't notice a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety for a few weeks after starting on it. Likewise, abruptly stopping your medication doesn't give your brain enough time to adjust to the sudden change.
More than half (56%) of people who quit antidepressants experience withdrawal symptoms.
Click Play to Learn How To Wean Off Lexapro
This video has been medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD.
Signs & Symptoms of Lexapro Withdrawal
Different SSRI medications affect the brain in different ways. If you are one of the people who experience withdrawal symptoms, you can expect those symptoms to range from mild to severe. On a range of lowest to highest chance of severe withdrawal symptoms, Lexapro sits around the middle.
Research shows that the severity of SSRI withdrawal is much worse than previously believed. On average, about 46% of people experiencing SSRI withdrawal symptoms describe them as severe. Severe symptoms indicate that withdrawal can potentially interfere with your ability to meet responsibilities at home and at work.
There is a checklist for measuring the severity of antidepressant withdrawal that you may find helpful. It is known as the Discontinuation-Emergent Signs and Symptoms Scale (DESS).
Most Common Symptoms
The most common symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal—occurring in more than one in four people—are:
- Muscle tension
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble remembering things
Dizziness, muscle tension, and chills each affect about 44% of people discontinuing Lexapro. Many people also experience confusion and difficulty concentrating.
Less Common Symptoms
The following is a more complete list of symptoms associated with SSRI withdrawal:
- Changes in motor control: Temors, muscle tension, restless legs, unsteady gait, or difficulty controlling speech and chewing movements
- Digestive issues: Nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, or appetite loss
- Flu-like symptoms: Headache, muscle pain, weakness, and tiredness.
- Instability: Dizziness, lightheadedness, difficulty walking
- Mood changes: Anxiety, agitation, panic, suicidal ideation, depression, irritability, anger, mania, or mood swings
- Sleep problems: Nightmares, unusual dreams, excessive/vivid dreams, or insomnia
- Unusual sensations: Brain zaps (like an electrical shock or shiver in your brain), pins and needles, ringing in the ears, strange tastes, or hypersensitivity to sound
Lexapro withdrawal can take a real toll on your life, both physically and emotionally. SSRIs like Lexapro work by increasing serotonin levels in your brain. When you stop taking them, it takes your brain a while to get used to the drug’s absence. Unfortunately, the amount of time this takes can vary widely.
How Long Does Lexapro Withdrawal Last?
Lexapro withdrawal symptoms typically begin one to three days after your last dose. They can start sooner (within hours) or later (more than a week). Symptoms generally resolve within a few weeks, although they may continue for longer.
Coping & Relief
The best way to find relief from Lexapro withdrawal is to avoid it altogether. Quitting cold turkey may increase the likelihood of severe withdrawal. Instead, set up an appointment with your prescribing doctor to discuss your reasons for quitting and your quitting plan.
If you are still experiencing symptoms of depression, your doctor may want to transition you to another medication or combination of medications.
Common Types of Depression Medication
Taper Off Medication Slowly
The most effective way to minimize symptoms of withdrawal is to slowly taper off your medication. Tapering involves adjusting your dose by a small amount, gradually decreasing until your body gets used to lower levels of the medication. Your doctor can create a dose schedule and carefully monitor the process to avoid severe symptoms.
A New Approach to Tapering
In the past, doctors recommended tapering down the dosage relatively quickly to the minimum therapeutic dose. However, more recent research outlines a new approach for treating and preventing SSRI withdrawal symptoms: a very slow, very long medication taper lasting upwards of one month, continuing well past the minimum therapeutic dose until the dose is zero.
Practice Good Self-Care
Taking good care of your health as you stop taking Lexapro can also help you to better manage any withdrawal symptoms that you experience. Some steps you can take that might help you cope with withdrawal symptoms include:
- Eat a healthy and nutritious diet.
- Follow your doctor's tapering recommendations.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Get regular exercise.
- Get support from family, friends, or support groups.
When you stop or reduce your dose of Lexapro, there is a risk that you may begin to feel suicidal. Large-scale research studies have found a clear association between the discontinuation of antidepressants and suicide attempts.
It is important to keep this in mind during your withdrawal experience. If you begin noticing unusually strong symptoms of depression, it is imperative to seek help immediately.
If you or someone you love shows any of the following signs or symptoms after stopping Lexapro, get help right away:
- Becoming preoccupied with death, dying, or violence
- Engaging in risky or self-destructive activities, such as driving drunk
- Feeling hopeless or trapped
- Gathering the means to commit suicide, such as bullets or pills
- Getting affairs in order or giving away belongings
- Having intense mood swings
- Planning how you would commit suicide if you were going to do it
- Saying goodbye to people as if it were the last time
- Talking or thinking about suicide more than normal, for example, “I wish I were dead”
When to Get Help
If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact theNational Suicide Prevention Lifelineat988for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.
For more mental health resources, see ourNational Helpline Database.
About 50% of people who recover from one episode of depression will have more depressive episodes in their lifetime.
If Lexapro didn’t help or you had to stop taking it because of unwanted side effects, then you will need to develop a long-term plan to treat your depression or anxiety. This may include trying different antidepressants or combinations of antidepressants.
Talk therapy is also an effective treatment for depression and anxiety. Not every therapist is going to be a good match for you, so take the time to find a therapist who you will enjoy working with. You may need to try out a few people before you find the right fit.
How to Find the Best Therapist for You
If your doctor isn’t helping, consider finding a new psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist. If you have health insurance, you can search the company’s list of local providers who accept your insurance.
In addition to your doctor and mental health professionals, there are also a number of online resources that can help support you during Lexapro withdrawal. Support groups can be a helpful source of information and peer support during your recovery.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a searchable directory of qualified providers. You can also call them at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
A Word From Verywell
Lexapro has helped millions of people get their lives back. But what happens next? Most people don’t want to be on antidepressants for the rest of their lives, but they are afraid of what will happen when they finally quit, such as relapse or withdrawal.
Getting off antidepressants can be challenging, but with proper planning, it is possible to have a seamless transition. Talk to your doctor about a slow and lengthy taper. You’ll be down to zero milligrams before you know it.
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Pratt LA, Brody DJ, Gu Q. Antidepressant use among persons aged 12 and over: United States, 2011–2014. NCHS Data Brief, no 283. National Center for Health Statistics.
Davies J, Read J. A systematic review into the incidence, severity and duration of antidepressant withdrawal effects: Are guidelines evidence-based?. Addict Behav. 2019;97:111-121. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.08.027
Yasui-Furukori N, Hashimoto K, Tsuchimine S, et al. Characteristics of escitalopram discontinuation syndrome: a preliminary study. Clin Neuropharmacol. 2016;39(3):125-7. doi:10.1097/WNF.0000000000000139
Fava GA, Gatti A, Belaise C, Guidi J, Offidani E. Withdrawal symptoms after selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor discontinuation: A systematic review. Psychother Psychosom. 2015;84(2):72-81. doi:10.1159/000370338
Horowitz MA, Taylor D. Tapering of SSRI treatment to mitigate withdrawal symptoms. Lancet Psychiatry. 2019;6(6):538-546. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(19)30032-X
Valuck RJ, Orton HD, Libby AM. Antidepressant discontinuation and risk of suicide attempt: A retrospective, nested case-control study. J Clin Psychiatry. 2009;70(8):1069-77. doi:10.4088/JCP.08m04943
Mayo Clinic. Suicide and suicidal thoughts.
Burcusa SL, Iacono WG. Risk for recurrence in depression. Clin Psychol Rev. 2007;27(8):959–985. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2007.02.005
By Corinne O’Keefe Osborn
Corinne Osborn is an award-winning health and wellness journalist with a background in substance abuse, sexual health, and psychology.
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What does Lexapro Withdrawal feel like? ›
Missing doses of escitalopram may increase your risk for relapse in your symptoms. Stopping escitalopram abruptly may result in one or more of the following withdrawal symptoms: irritability, nausea, feeling dizzy, vomiting, nightmares, headache, and/or paresthesias (prickling, tingling sensation on the skin).How long does Lexapro withdrawal last cold turkey? ›
Withdrawal symptoms typically persist for up to three weeks. The symptoms gradually fade during this time. Most people who quit taking their antidepressants stop having symptoms after three weeks.Is it hard to withdraw from Lexapro? ›
If you've decided, with your doctor to come off your medication, the quitting process can be difficult. Common symptoms of withdrawal include dizziness, muscle tension, chills, crying, and brain fog.How long does it take to wean off Lexapro 10mg? ›
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SSRI medications have long been known to cause withdrawal symptoms, which doctors refer to as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. These symptoms occur because the brain needs time to adjust to the drug's discontinuation, and the resulting new level of serotonin in the brain.What is the fastest way to wean off Lexapro? ›
Discontinuing an antidepressant medication usually involves reducing your dose in increments, allowing two to six weeks or longer between dose reductions. Your clinician can instruct you in tapering your dose and prescribe the appropriate dosage pills.Can I just stop taking 5mg Lexapro? ›
If you suddenly stop taking Lexapro, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, which can include irritability, headache, dizziness, lethargy, and sensory disturbances. The best way to discontinue the medication is to taper off your dose slowly according to a doctor's instructions.