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Lexapro Withdrawal

Lexapro withdrawal symptoms can appear if a person stops taking this medication suddenly. That's why doctors recommend gradually tapering the dose of antidepressant medications to avoid these often unpleasant symptoms. Not only should patients taking this medication be aware of the symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal, families and caregivers also need to be able to recognize them should they occur in a family member or loved one.

What is Lexapro?

Lexapro is a medication used to treat symptoms of depression and generalized anxiety disorder. It falls into the class of medications called serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. These medications work by altering the serotonin system in the brain. People with depression and some types of anxiety have low levels of brain serotonin. Some but not all will experience improvement in their mood after taking one of these drugs for several weeks. SSRIs like Lexapro don't work for everyone. Some doctors also prescribe Lexapro to treat conditions other than depression and generalized anxiety disorder, although it's not approved for treating other conditions.

Symptoms of Lexapro Withdrawal

According to the journal American Family Physician, up to 20% of people who stop taking an antidepressant like Lexapro experience withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal may include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Balance problems
  • Dizziness
  • Sensory disturbances
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Increased arousal and anxiety
  • Visual disturbances
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches

One unusual symptom that some people experience are "brain shocks," a sensation that their head is vibrating or being shocked. The symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal typically appear within 3 days of stopping the medication. Withdrawal symptoms usually only occur in people who have taken an antidepressant medication like Lexapro for at least six weeks.

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How to Reduce the Risk of Lexapro Withdrawal

The best way to prevent this problem is to discontinue Lexapro only under close medical guidance. Doctors usually slowly cut back dosages over a six to eight week period to give the body and brain a chance to gradually adjust. This reduces the risk of developing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Fortunately, the symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal aren't life-threatening, although they may be quite disturbing to the person experiencing them, as well as their family. Even without treatment, the symptoms usually resolve within seven to fourteen days.

The problem is the symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal can sometimes mimic other more serious medical conditions, such as stroke. That's why it's important for anyone experiencing these symptoms to see their doctor immediately. If the symptoms are severe, some doctors will restart Lexapro to stop the symptoms and slowly taper the dose back over several weeks to prevent further withdrawal symptoms. Most people respond well to this gradual tapering.

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