Introduction

Finding the right medication to treat your depression can be difficult. You may have to try several different medications before you find the right one for you. The more you know about your options for medication, the easier it will be for you and your doctor to find the right treatment.

Celexa and Lexapro are two popular drugs used to treat depression. Here’s a comparison of these two drugs to help you as you discuss options with your doctor.

Drug Features

Both Celexa and Lexapro belong to a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Serotonin is a substance in your brain that helps control your mood. These medications work by increasing serotonin levels to help treat symptoms of depression.

For both drugs, it may take some time for your doctor to find the dosage that works best for you. They may start you at a low dosage and increase it after one week, if needed. It may take one to four weeks for you to start to feel better and up to eight to 12 weeks to feel the full effect of either of these drugs. If you’re switching from one medication to the other, your doctor may start at a lower strength to find the dosage that’s right for you.

The following table highlights features of these two drugs.

Brand nameCelexa Lexapro
What is the generic drug?citalopram escitalopram
Is a generic version available?yesyes
What does it treat?depressiondepression, anxiety disorder
What ages is it approved for?18 years and older12 years and older
What forms does it come in?oral tablet, oral solutionoral tablet, oral solution
What strengths does it come in?tablet: 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, solution: 2 mg/mLtablet: 5 mg, 10 mg, 20 mg, solution: 1 mg/mL
What is the typical length of treatment?long-term treatmentlong-term treatment
What’s the typical starting dosage?20 mg/day 10 mg/day
What’s the typical daily dosage?40 mg/day20 mg/day
Is there a risk of withdrawal with this drug?yesyes

Do not stop taking Celexa or Lexapro without talking to your doctor. Stopping either drug suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms. These can include:

  • irritability
  • agitation
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • headache
  • anxiety
  • lack of energy
  • insomnia

If you need to stop taking either medication, your doctor will decrease your dosage slowly.

Cost, availability, and insurance

The prices are similar for Celexa and Lexapro. Both medications are available in most pharmacies, and health insurance plans normally cover both drugs. However, they may want you to use the generic form.

Keep reading: Complete drug information for escitalopram, including dosage, side effects, warnings, and more »

Celexa is the brand-name version of the generic drug citalopram. Lexapro is the brand-name of the generic drug escitalopram. Brand-name products tend to be more expensive then the generic forms.

Keep reading: Complete drug information for citalopram, including dosage, side effects, warnings, and more »

Side effects

Celexa and Lexapro both have a warning for an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults (ages 18–24 years), especially in the first few months of treatment and during dosage changes.

Stay safe: What to know about antidepressants and suicide risk »

Stay safe: What to know about antidepressants and suicide risk »

Celexa has one warning that Lexapro does not. Celexa doses greater than 40 mg per day are not recommended. This is due to the risk of electrical changes in your heart (or, fast or slow heart rate).

The chart below lists examples of side effects of Celexa and Lexapro.

Side effectCelexaLexapro
CommonnauseaXX
sleepinessXX
weaknessXX
dizzinessXX
anxietyXX
trouble sleepingXX
sexual problemsXX
sweatingXX
loss of appetiteXX
shakingXX
dry mouthXX
constipationXX
respiratory infectionsXX
yawningXX
diarrheaX
Serious side effectssuicidal actions or thoughtsXX
serotonin syndromeXX
severe allergic reactionsXX
abnormal bleedingXX
seizures or convulsionsXX
manic episodes XX
changes in appetite or weightXX
low salt (sodium) levels in your bloodXX
visual problemsXX

Sexual problems from these drugs can include:

  • impotence
  • delayed ejaculation
  • decreased sex drive
  • inability to have an orgasm

Visual problems from these drugs can include:

  • blurry vision
  • double vision
  • dilated pupils

Drug interactions

Celexa and Lexapro can interact with other medications. The specific drug interactions of both drugs are similar. Before you start treatment with either medication, tell your doctor about all prescription and over-the-counter drugs, supplements, and herbs that you take.

The table below lists possible drug interactions for Celexa and Lexapro.

Interacting drugCelexaLexapro
MAOIs*, including the antibiotic linezolidXX
pimozideXX
blood thinners such as warfarin and aspirinXX
NSAIDs* such as ibuprofen and naproxenXX
carbamazepineXX
lithiumXX
anxiety drugsXX
mental illness drugsXX
seizure drugsXX
ketoconazoleXX
migraine drugsXX
drugs for sleep XX
quinidineX
amiodaroneX
sotalolX
chlorpromazineX
gatifloxicinX
moxifloxacinX
pentamidineX
methadoneX

*MAOIs: monoamine oxidase inhibitors; NSAIDs: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Use with other medical conditions

If you have certain health problems, your doctor may start you on a different dosage of Celexa or Lexapro, or you may not be able to take the drugs at all. Discuss your safety with your doctor before taking Celexa or Lexapro if you have any of the following medical conditions:

  • kidney problems
  • liver problems
  • seizure disorder
  • bipolar disorder
  • pregnancy
  • heart problems, including:
    • congenital long QT syndrome
    • bradycardia (slow heart rhythm)
    • recent heart attack
    • worsening heart failure

Talk with your doctor

In general, Celexa and Lexapro work well to treat depression. The drugs cause many of the same side effects and have similar interactions and warnings. Still, there are differences between the medications, including dosage, who can take them, what drugs they interact with, and if they also treat anxiety. These factors may influence which drug you take. Talk to your doctor about these factors and any of your other concerns. They’ll help choose the drug that’s best for you.