How Long Does It Take For Lexapro To Work?

By Andrew Yocum, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
March 4, 2022

Lexapro is a brand name version of an antidepressant called escitalopram.

As of 2019, more than 6 million people in America take Lexapro to improve their mood, emotional regulation, and energy levels.

If your doctor prescribes you Lexapro for depression or anxiety, it can take some time to start working.

In this article, I’ll tell you how long it typically takes for this medication to start working.

I’ll also explain what Lexapro is, what it’s used to treat, how it works, and list some of its potential side effects.

I’ll also tell you when to talk to your doctor.

What is Lexapro?

Lexapro is a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI.

SSRIs increase levels of serotonin in the brain, which can improve mood and emotional regulation.

This benefits people with clinical depression and anxiety.

Lexapro is extremely popular in the United States. This is partially due to its low cost. 

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What Lexapro can treat

Lexapro is typically prescribed to treat the following conditions: 

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD): Young people aged 12 to 17 are prescribed Lexapro as either a short-term (acute) or long-term (maintenance) treatment for major depressive disorder, sometimes called clinical depression.

Lexapro is sometimes prescribed for other psychological and mood disorders including, but not limited to:

Lexapro is not prescribed for mood disorders that involve mania, like bipolar disorder, as it can affect emotional cycles. Lexapro is not safe for pregnant women. 

How Does Lexapro Work?

Lexapro is a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI.

Serotonin is a type of chemical called a neurotransmitter.

Neurotransmitters are responsible for sending messages to areas of the brain that regulate important bodily processes like appetite, sleep, pain sensation, and mood regulation. Under normal circumstances, when a neurotransmitter finishes carrying its message, it is recycled by the brain, a process called “reuptake.”

Lexapro acts on a part of the brain that controls serotonin levels, called reuptake sites.

This inhibits the recycling of serotonin at these sites so that they remove less serotonin at a time, leaving more serotonin in your brain.

This can help balance the amount available in the brain, alleviating depression symptoms.

Short-term treatments

When used as part of acute, or short-term, treatments, Lexapro can assist in coping with short-term problems from acute depression to grief. 

Long-term treatments

For maintenance, or long-term, treatments, Lexapro helps regulate things like anxiety disorders for a longer time period, sometimes indefinitely.

Usually only adults are prescribed Lexapro for long-term treatments.

How Long Does it Take to Work?

When you take Lexapro (or its generic version, escitalopram), your body metabolizes it and changes your brain function in a matter of hours.

Physiological effects begin almost immediately, and many people notice a change quickly.

Even though the medication begins to take effect from the first day it’s administered, people may notice the results of its effects at different times.

Different people notice changes after differing periods. Most people report that they feel the effects of their medication after 4 weeks of consistent treatment. 

For people who feel the effects of Lexapro quickly, it may be due, in part, to a placebo response.

When someone feels very strongly that the medication will be helpful for them, they may notice changes within days or even hours after taking Lexapro. 

Other people may not notice the influence of Lexapro for up to 6 weeks.

This does not mean that the medication is not working, but rather that some people take longer to notice a difference.

If you feel worse after taking Lexapro or notice no change at all after this time, talk with your doctor about the next steps or switching medications. 

Potential Side Effects

If you are taking or will be taking Lexapro, you may experience some side effects.

These effects often go away after a few weeks.

Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider if they do not go away, or if they start to affect your daily life negatively.

Studies show that people who take Lexapro sometimes report the following common side effects:

Weight gain, reduced sex drive, and sexual dysfunction are common issues that may prevent some from using Lexapro as a treatment. 

SSRIs also affect your metabolism, sometimes leading to weight changes.

Weight gain and sexual changes resulting from taking Lexapro do not typically go away with time, but may stop after stopping taking Lexapro.

Combining Lexapro with other medications or substances can also increase risks. 

Do not take Lexapro if you are also taking pimozide (Orap), or if you have a known allergy or hypersensitivity to escitalopram or citalopram (Celexa). 

Other drugs and treatments can interact with Lexapro in dangerous or fatal ways.

Medications known to interact with Lexapro include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Stimulant medicines
  • Blood thinners
  • Opioid medicines
  • Medications for Parkinson’s disease
  • Medications for migraine headaches
  • Medications for serious infections
  • Medications preventing nausea and vomiting

Always talk with your doctor about your medical history, and tell them about everything you take, before beginning a new medication. 

When to See a Doctor

Suicidal ideation is a rare side effect of Lexapro in young adults.

In treatments for children and young adults ages 12-17, keep an eye out for warning signs of an increase in depression symptoms like isolation and apathy. 

Another rare side effect of SSRIs like Lexapro is serotonin syndrome, which is an overload of serotonin in your brain.

Serotonin syndrome is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Rapid changes in blood pressure or heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations

Serotonin syndrome is considered a medical emergency, so if you experience these symptoms, seek emergency medical help immediately. 

In rare cases, people find out that they are allergic to Lexapro, escitalopram or citalopram as they are taking it.

An allergic reaction to these medications has these symptoms:

  • Rashes
  • Itching
  • Swelling in the face, hands, ankles, or feet
  • Swelling inside the mouth or throat
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing

An allergic reaction to Lexapro or other SSRI medications is also considered a medical emergency, and you should immediately seek medical help. 

If you’re having a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. You can also get free 24/7 support from a suicide and crisis expert by calling or texting 988. If you’d prefer to chat online, you can chat with a suicide and crisis expert by visiting the Lifeline Chat.

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Get Help with K Health

Think you might need a prescription for Lexapro (Escitalopram)?

K Health has clinicians standing by 24/7 to evaluate your symptoms and determine if Lexapro is right for you.

Get started with our free assessment, which will tell you in minutes if treatment could be a good fit. If yes, we’ll connect you right to a clinician who can prescribe medication and have it shipped right to your door.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you feel the effects of Lexapro immediately?
Most people report feeling the effects of their Lexapro within 4 weeks. It can take some people as little as a day or as long as 6 weeks to feel the effects of their treatment. This is because different people notice the influence of medication at different times.
How does Lexapro make you feel the first week?
Everybody reacts to medication differently. If you are very sensitive to changes in your body and system, you may notice Lexapro’s effects the next day. If you are less likely to notice changes in your sleep, appetite, or mood, it may take much longer to tell that you are under the influence of Lexapro. Your body is still getting used to a new treatment and medication, which can have some side effects. If you feel more serious side effects like suicidal ideation or serotonin syndrome, stop taking the medication immediately and seek emergency medical help.
Is Lexapro best for anxiety?
Lexapro is commonly prescribed for both anxiety and depression. This is because it has positive effects on serotonin levels in the brain, which helps regulate mood.
Is Lexapro fast acting?
When Lexapro is administered, it immediately begins to spread through your body. In the brain, it will begin increasing serotonin levels. It will take you some time to notice a difference, even though your brain is already changing.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Andrew Yocum, MD

Dr Andrew Yocum is a board certified emergency physician. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Kent State University with a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology before attending Northeast Ohio Medical University where he would earn his Medical Doctorate (MD).

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