In this article, we will explore how Celexa works, and what it looks like to stop taking it—from tapering, withdrawal symptoms, and what you need to know about Celexa and pregnancy.
We’ll also explore tips for making the transition as smooth as possible, plus how to know when you should see your doctor or provider.
What is Celexa?
Citalopram hydrobromide (Celexa) is an antidepressant medication that has been FDA-approved for the treatment of depression.
It is also used off-label for other purposes, including for anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and more.
Celexa is an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), which is a class of antidepressant drugs that work to slow the clearance of serotonin from the brain.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of calm, well-being, and balance in the brain.
If your brain clears serotonin too quickly, you may experience depression, anxiety, or other mood imbalances.
SSRIs work to restore balance to how your neurotransmitters interact in your brain.
Celexa is used for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) or other depression-related symptoms or conditions. It is also used off-label for other purposes, including:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
- Separation anxiety disorder
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- Binge eating disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
How Celexa works
Your central nervous system (CNS) processes neurotransmitters and facilitates countless communications from your brain to your nerves throughout the body.
Mood regulation is a big part of the CNS. Some people are genetically predisposed to clearing neurotransmitters too quickly or too slowly, which can lead to brain imbalances.
Other factors like stress, trauma, or other medical conditions can contribute to disruptions in neurotransmitter balance.
Celexa prevents the reuptake of serotonin, which makes it more available for your brain.
Because it only selectively affects serotonin and not your other neurotransmitters, it has fewer side effects and can support a balanced mood response.
Symptoms of Celexa Withdrawal
While Celexa usually has mild or no side effects while taking it, coming off of any type of antidepressant may cause pronounced symptoms if stopped too quickly.
It requires careful management to avoid severe reactions.
Withdrawal symptoms when stopping an antidepressant are common.
The most typical symptoms of Celexa withdrawal include:
Celexa is FDA pregnancy category C, which means that animal studies have shown adverse effects with the drug, but there are no well-controlled human studies available.
The benefits of the drug may outweigh the potential risks, and only a patient and their doctor can determine this.
Specifically, it is not known how Celexa may impact the fetus in the first trimester, but SSRIs like Celexa are not associated with major birth defects.
In the second and third trimesters, it may slightly increase the risk for preterm labor.
Infants born to pregnant people who took Celexa had a higher risk of being taken to the NICU for neonatal adaptation syndrome, which could include respiratory problems, feeding difficulties, hypoglycemia, or jaundice.
Your doctor will help you consider the benefits and risks of staying on Celexa during pregnancy.
People who experience depression before pregnancy have a greater risk for postpartum depression, which can affect both parent and infant.
If you and your doctor determine that you should decrease your Celexa dose or wean off of it during pregnancy, they will provide you with a plan for tapering and monitoring your symptoms.
Timeline for Celexa Withdrawal
Celexa is mostly cleared by the liver, and to a smaller extent, the kidneys.
The half-life of Celexa is 35 hours, which means that it takes 35 hours for the dosage you took to be reduced in the body by half. It clears the body more slowly than other types of medication.
In patients who are over age 60, Celexa’s half-life is 50% longer.
Because it takes longer to clear, and stays at higher concentrations in older adults, lower doses are recommended.
For patients who have decreased liver function, Celexa clearance takes longer and the half-life is twice as high. Lower doses may be recommended for these patients as well.
Overall, it may take 1-5 days before withdrawal symptoms appear.
They will not come on immediately after you have fully stopped taking the medication, but you also need to be aware that as a week or more passes, you may experience symptoms or a resurgence of depression or mood changes.
While this is to be expected, you should keep in touch with your doctor and let them know if you start to feel significantly worse than expected or have any other concerns. If you experience any thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation, seek emergency medical care right away.
Celexa discontinuation symptoms typically last anywhere from one week to two months before they resolve.
Tips for Coping with Celexa Withdrawal
Withdrawal from Celexa may feel scary, but knowing what to expect can help.
Your doctor or mental health provider will walk you through the plan.
Closely follow the taper dosage
Celexa is not meant to be discontinued suddenly.
Your prescriber will taper your dose, which means gradually reducing it over days or weeks.
The longer the taper, the less likely you will be to have pronounced symptoms and a potential relapse.
It is important that you stick to the taper dosage.
If you stop too quickly, you will be at risk for more serious withdrawal symptoms and side effects, some of which can be severe.
If your feelings of depression or low mood return after stopping Celexa, psychotherapy can be helpful support.
It may not always resolve your feelings of depression, but depending on what is affecting or causing your depression, a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed counselor could help you find proactive ways to manage your mood or even guide you through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
Both of these specific types of therapy have been found to be supportive of people dealing with depression.
There are many ways that a healthy lifestyle can support a balanced mood.
You don’t have to live perfectly to experience positive effects from healthy lifestyle choices.
Making changes like cutting back on smoking, reducing your alcohol intake, and cutting back on caffeine can all be helpful.
Get daily physical activity if you’re able and try to get adequate sleep.
Eat a nutritious diet, stay hydrated, and try to engage in hobbies or activities that bring you joy.
You don’t have to suddenly start doing all of those things at the same time, but working in positive ways to support a healthy lifestyle can dramatically improve both mental and physical well-being.
If your withdrawal symptoms include nausea or body aches, you can use OTC medications to help alleviate some discomfort.
Keep in communication with your healthcare provider
Your doctor will want to know if you start to feel noticeably worse or experience side effects or symptoms that you were not expecting.
If you feel overwhelmed or scared, check in with your doctor.
They may be able to offer other options for treatment or support.
It’s important to know that you are not alone, and that seeking help that you need in a proactive way can prevent negative outcomes.
When to See a Doctor
If you are withdrawing from Celexa and your symptoms feel like they are getting worse or are more severe than you were expecting, see your healthcare provider.
If you want to stop taking Celexa, but are unsure of other treatment options, your doctor can identify alternative medications and will help establish a tapering plan to help you stop taking Celexa.
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.
Never stop taking Celexa without your doctor’s help. Doing this could lead to sudden and severe withdrawal symptoms.
How K Health Can Help
Think you might need a prescription for Celexa (citalopram)?
K Health has clinicians standing by 24/7 to evaluate your symptoms and determine if citalopram 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
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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A systematic review into the incidence, severity and duration of antidepressant withdrawal effects: Are guidelines evidence-based? (2019).
Withdrawal Symptoms after Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Discontinuation: A Systematic Review. (2015).
ACOG Guidelines on Psychiatric Medication Use During Pregnancy and Lactation. (2008).
FDA Pregnancy Categories. (2021).
Neonatal Adaptation in Infants Prenatally Exposed to Antidepressants- Clinical Monitoring Using Neonatal Abstinence Score. (2014).
Postpartum depression risk factors: A narrative review. (2017).
Cognitive behavioral therapy for depression. (2020).
The efficacy of EMDR in the treatment of depression. (2015).
Antidepressant withdrawal and rebound phenomena. (2019).