Celexa vs Lexapro: Similarities, Differences, Uses, & More

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Approximately 57.8 million American adults suffer from mental illnesses. Of these, 5.5% are serious mental illnesses that severely impair essential life activities.

Mental illnesses also affect 16.5% of American youths aged 6 to 17. Such a high prevalence rate is alarming.

Fortunately, there are medications that psychiatrists or primary care providers can prescribe to treat mental illnesses, with the most common medication being antidepressants like Lexapro and Celexa.

Celexa and Lexapro treat depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, ADHD, and psychosis.

In this article, we’ll talk about how Celexa vs Lexapro workwhat they’re used for, similarities, differences, and their cost.

We’ll also highlight their dosages, side effects, and alternative antidepressant medications. Read on to learn more about these drugs and the conditions treated.

About Lexapro

Lexapro is the standard brand name of the generic drug called Escitalopram, which belongs to the class of Selective Serotonin Reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) drugs. The drug is an antidepressant medication that improves moods by working in the brain.

Escitalopram (Lexapro) is FDA-approved for the treatment of GAD and MDD. Its use is among adults and adolescents between 12 and 17 years old.


You can easily suffer from GAD when in constant worry and anxiety for more than 6 months and can’t control the situation. For your experience to qualify as a mental issue, you should also have at least 3 of the following symptoms of GAD;

  • Muscle tension
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty sleeping or waking up at night
  • Irritability
  • Absentmindedness


As for MDD, it’s a persistent depressing condition or mood that occurs almost daily for at least two weeks. MDD also limits your daily activities and should include five of the following 9 symptoms;

  • Increased fatigue
  • Suicidal behaviors or ideas
  • Low or lack of interest in your usual activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Drastic changes in your weight and appetite
  • Depressed mood (feeling sad and empty)
  • Lack of sleep or excessive sleepiness
  • Lack of concentration

Psychomotor agitation is where you make repetitive unintentional movements due to anxiety.

Though Lexapro is FDA-approved for the treatment of MDD and GAD, your doctor may prescribe it off-label in the treatment of other mental conditions, as highlighted in the table below;

Celexa vs Lexapro: FDA approved uses and non-FDA approved

What is Celexa?

The generic drug name for Celexa is Citalopram. The drug belongs to the SSRI class of drugs and functions almost the same as Lexapro. Celexa treats anxiety and depressive disorders. In addition, this medication can reduce the risk of a panic attack for individuals with panic disorder.

The difference is that Celexa is FDA-approved for treating MDD among adult patients.

Citalopram was FDA-approved for use in the treatment of MDD back in 1998. It’s also the most prevalently used selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Your medical professional may prescribe Celexa off-label to treat other mental conditions.

The table below demonstrates some mental issues treated off-label by using Celexa.

You should consult with a healthcare professional when using drugs off-label. They’ll advise you on the appropriate off-label use of drugs based on your health, age, and symptoms. Drugs off-labeling varies depending on the patient-drug relationship.

How Escitalopram vs Citalopram works

Lexapro and Celexa are antidepressant drugs and belong to the same class of medicines. They work by inhibiting the brain from reabsorbing the serotonin produced during neurotransmission.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that your brain reabsorbs from your body. By inhibiting the reabsorption process, serotonin levels increase, leading to improved moods and regulated anxiety for people with low serotonin levels.

The development and approval of Escitalopram came match later due to safety concerns. This is because Celexa has two stereoisomers, namely R-citalopram and S-citalopram.

On its part, Lexapro revolutionized the industry as it has one stereoisomer- the S-citalopram. This makes Lexapro more tolerable to the body than previous versions of SSRI drugs.

Lexapro is also much more effective in the body since its active ingredient is readily available for absorption, whereas, in Celexa, the active ingredients have to be broken down into simpler forms by your body for absorption.

Celexa vs Lexapro: Differences

As much as Celexa and Lexapro belong to the same class of drugs, they have differences in the following categories;

What are the similarities between Celexa and Lexapro?

Some of the similarities between Celexa vs Lexapro include the following:

-They work by limiting the reabsorption of serotonin in the nerve synapse, reducing depressive moods.

-They’re linked with symptoms of withdrawal when you stop using them.

-They have common side effects like headache, vomiting, nausea, dry mouth, and increased sweating.

-They’re both branded drugs, but their generic forms are available.

-They’re prescription medicines and aren’t controlled

Celexa and Lexapro have a low chance of causing inhibition of hepatic enzymes when used with drugs like Warfarin and Asprin.

You should check the drug-drug interactions under precautions if you’re on other medications. Or consult your healthcare professional for guidelines.

Other drug-drug interactions that you should be on the lookout for are here. Your doctor may change your prescription depending on your other medications.

Celexa vs Lexapro: Prescription and dosage

Lexapro and Celexa are taken orally as a tablet or in liquid suspension. The recommended dose for Lexapro and Celexa is once daily at the prescribed dosage. You must choose a specific time to take your medicine to avoid withdrawal symptoms or unwanted side effects.

You can take Lexapro or Celexa with or without food. Avoid taking alcoholic drinks when on SSRIs as they may worsen side effects like drowsiness or confusion, thus worsening your anxiety or depression symptoms.

If you miss a dose of Lexapro or Celexa, take the missed dose as soon as possible. If your next scheduled dose is near, skip the missed dose and continue with your schedule of taking the drug.

You shouldn’t take a double dose of the medicine to compensate for a missed dose.

Always consult your doctor for the correct dosage of Lexapro and Celexa, as they’re in dosages of 5mg, 10mg, and 20 mg. The initial starting dose for adults is 10 mg daily. It increased after a week, depending on your condition.

Young adults aged 12 to 17 can also start medication with a daily 10 mg dose. Their dosage is increased after at least three weeks to avoid adverse side effects.

What are the adverse effects of Lexapro and Celexa?

The side effects of Lexapro and Celexa may vary from mild to severe. Common side effects of these medications include the following;

  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Insomnia (sleeping problems)
  • Heartburn
  • Increased sweating
  • Increased appetite

Consult your healthcare team if any of these symptoms persist.

Adverse side effects that you should be aware of include the following;

An increase in suicidal thoughts and incidences among young adults and adolescents.

Serotonin syndrome. This is a potentially life-threatening condition where the serotonin levels in your CNS are in excess, leading to neuromuscular excitation and autonomic stimulation.

Serotonin is common among patients consuming high doses of SSRIs who’ve overdosed and are taking Lexapro and Celexa with other serotonergic drugs like the monoamine oxidase inhibitors.

Other side effects include the following:

  • QT-Prolongation and Torsade de Pointes.
  • Hyponatremia
  • Increased and abnormal heartbeats, especially with Celexa at high doses of above 40 mg per day.
  • Increased risk of bleeding
  • Low blood sodium levels
  • Seizures
  • Angle-closure glaucoma
  • Hypomania, especially for patients with bipolar disorder
  • Withdrawal syndrome or discontinuing syndrome
  • Increased sexual dysfunction like decreased sex drive, ejaculation problems, or impotence
  • Interference with the cognitive and motor functions of the body

Such severe side effects of using Lexapro and other SSRI drugs are rare.

Some of these side effects may be due to the following reasons;

-Pre-existing medical conditions. For instance, patients with pneumonia while using SSRIs may suffer from hyponatremia.

-Patients taking high doses of SSRIs or other serotonergic drugs have an increased potential of getting serotonin syndrome.

-Factors like female patients, patients aged 60 and above, and acute coronary syndrome patients can get QT-Prolongation and Torsade de Pointes.

You should monitor the moods and behaviors of patients taking Lexapro or any other SSRI drug. This goes a long way in ensuring they receive support throughout their medication, hence decreasing cases of suicide or avoiding the above-mentioned severe side effects.

How to monitor the effects of Lexapro and Celexa

There are tests formulated to monitor the effects of SSRIs on patients suffering from anxiety and depression. The tests include the following;

Generalized anxiety disorder-7 (GAD-7) and the Hamilton anxiety scale (HAM-A) monitor the severity of anxiety disorders.

The Patient Health questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) is used to quantify the scale of depression in patients.

Regular basic metabolic panel and EKG tests assess the electrolyte disturbances (SSRI-induced SIADH) and EKG changes (QT-Prolongation) of older patients and families with a history of arrhythmias. QT changes of more than 500 ms or a baseline change more significant than 60 ms alert you to change antidepressants.

The RISQ-PATH analysis is for patients with a low QT Prolongation risk and has a negative predictive value of 98%.

Beers Criteria is used to watch the blood sodium levels in patients aged 65 and above.

Monitoring the severity of the effects of SSRIs is essential in avoiding adverse side effects. Your healthcare team will advise you to change medications or dosages based on the readings from the above tests.

Are Lexapro and Celexa cheap?

The affordability of Lexapro and Celexa is dependent on where you live, your pharmacy, and whether your medical insurance cover offers copay services.

If your insurance doesn’t cover your medication costs, you can purchase the generic brands of Lexapro and Celexa.

The generic brands for Lexapro and Celexa are Escitalopram and Citalopram, respectively. Escitalopram and citalopram are usually cheaper than their brand names- Lexapro and Celexa.

The average cost for a 30-day supply of 20mg Lexapro and 10mg Celexa is around $450 and $350, respectively, without insurance. On the other hand, the generic versions of the drugs retail at around $3 to $6, especially if you’ve got a coupon.

Online pharmaceutical stores run promos and discounts that may be appealing to you. Purchase your medication from them as they also deliver medications to your doorstep, making it cheap and convenient.

You should note that you must have an active prescription to purchase Lexapro or Celexa at drug stores.

Lexapro vs Celexa: How to store

Like any other medicine, store Lexapro and Celexa out of reach of children. The room temperatures for storage are between 200C and 250C (680F and 770F) and should be away from light, moisture, and heat.

Lexapro vs Celexa in specific populations

Different population settings use Lexapro and Celexa to treat mental wellness issues. Some of these population sizes require careful consideration of how to use Lexapro and Celexa for anxiety or depression treatment. Such specific populations include the following;

Celexa vs Lexapro for pregnant women

Post-marketing reports published by the National Pregnancy Registry for Antidepressants indicate that SRRIs increase the risk of your unborn baby developing persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPH) and having poor neonatal adaptation.

Pregnant women suffering from mental health conditions also face the risks of withdrawal symptoms if they discontinue their medication during pregnancy. You should seek the guidelines of your health care team for a smooth transition during pregnancy without hospitalization of you or your kid after birth.

Lexapro vs Celexa for breastfeeding women

Lexapro and Celexa can be passed to your baby through breastmilk, leading to signs of agitation, poor feeding, restlessness, poor weight gain, and excessive sleepiness in your infant.

Therefore, your clinician should weigh the benefits of breast milk to the infant and the clinical requirements of Lexapro and Celexa for the mother suffering from GAD and MDD. The clinician may reduce the dosage or change the medication to a low-risk medicine.

Alternatives to Lexapro and Celexa

The SSRI class of medicines includes other drugs that health physicians prescribe instead of Lexapro and Celexa. These drugs include the following and the conditions they treat;


Its brand name is Zoloft. It treats depression, panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, OCD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and social anxiety disorder.


This is the generic name for the brand Prozac. It treats bulimia, panic disorder, depression, depression from bipolar 1 disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

How to deal with an overdose

You should contact the Poison’s Help Line (1-800-222-1222) for directives when a patient overdoses on Lexapro or Celexa. When you notice an overdose case early, you can use activated charcoal as a gastrointestinal decontaminant.

Overdosed patients may experience seizures, serotonin syndrome, and cardiovascular toxicity. Such effects result in the need for prolonged cardiac monitoring if the patient is to survive.

How to stop taking Lexapro and Celexa

You will experience withdrawal syndrome when you stop taking Lexapro or Celexa abruptly. As such, you should start by gradually decreasing your dosage of the drugs before you quit them. Your caregiver may help you decide how to quit Lexapro and Celexa.

Read Also: Lexapro vs Prozac: Similarities, Differences, Precautions, More


Lexapro and Celexa belong to the same class of drugs- SSRIs. They treat mental health conditions and are usually sold off-label. This depends on your mental health condition and the judgment of your healthcare personnel.

However, Lexapro is FDA-approved for treating generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder, while Celexa is FDA-approved for treating major depressive disorder.

Lexapro is effective among adults and adolescents aged 12 and above. On the other hand, Celexa is used only among adults. Such a difference requires you to know how these medications work, their side effects, their cost, and how you can monitor their effects to prevent adverse side effects.

The essential thing you should do is consult your care provider and tell them of all your existing conditions and medications. This will enable them to prescribe Lexapro and Celexa to treat your mental health condition.

The content on Doctor Alexa’s blog is reviewed by Advanced practice registered nurses or pharmacist and is intended for educational purposes only. This information should not be relied upon as professional medical counsel. Be sure to always consult with your physician about the dangers and benefits of any medication, treatment or procedure.

You shouldn’t wait to see the doctor for simple health needs.