Celexa (citalopram) and Anxiety Disorders

Celexa is a Commonly Prescribed Antidepressant Medication

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If you have been diagnosed with panic disorder, your doctor may have prescribed an antidepressant medication such as Celexa (citalopram). Understanding how Celexa works and how it treats panic disorder can help you on your path to recovery. 

What is Celexa?

Celexa (citalopram) is an antidepressant medication that is often prescribed to treat both mood and anxiety disorders. Celexa belongs to a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.

SSRIs first came on the market for U.S. consumers in the 1980s and have grown in popularity ever since. 

How Does Celexa Work to Treat Panic Disorder?

Celexa balances a person's levels of serotonin, a naturally occurring chemical substance or neurotransmitter in the brain. Serotonin is responsible for regulating sleep, mood, and other functions. Serotonin levels are considered to be imbalanced in people with mood and anxiety disorders . An SSRI like Celexa can assist in balancing serotonin by preventing the nerve cells in the brain from absorbing it. By reducing the rate at which serotonin is reabsorbed, Celexa changes a person's brain chemistry, improving mood and reducing feelings of anxiety. Celexa can assist in decreasing the severity of panic attacks and other panic disorder symptoms. Plus, Celexa can also help in symptom reduction if a person has a common co-occurring condition, such as depression.​

Are There Any Side Effects of Using Celexa?

People taking Celexa may experience some side effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Drowsiness and lightheadedness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Increased sweating
  • Sexual side effects
  • Blurred vision

Many of the side effects of Celexa subside or become more manageable over time.

As with any medication, there is a risk of having an allergic drug reaction to Celexa. Additionally, it is possible to experience serious drug interactions while taking Celexa with other substances or medications. Make sure your prescribing doctor is up-to-date on all of your current prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following rare side effects:

  • Indicators of an allergic reaction, such as hives, rash, difficulty swallowing, restricted breathing, or swelling of the face, mouth, or tongue
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Extreme nervousness and anxiety
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

How Long Does it Take for Celexa to Work?

Dealing with the symptoms of panic disorder can be extremely difficult and it is normal to want to find relief as soon as possible. However, when starting on a new antidepressant medication, it is important to be patient and not expect immediate results. Many people report that positive changes and reduced symptoms are noticed within the first days to weeks of starting on Celexa, but it can take up to several months before the full effect of Celexa has had time to work.

What If I Forget To Take My Dose of Celexa?

Take any missed dose of Celexa as soon as you remember, except if it is close to the time for your next dose. Never take a double dose; instead, skip the missed dose and continue to follow your schedule of dosage times.

What If I Want to Stop Taking Celexa?

If you decide that you want to stop taking Celexa, your doctor can assist you in gradually reducing your dosage. Never abruptly stop taking your prescription. Suddenly discontinuing Celexa on your own can lead to some serious side effects and withdrawal-like symptoms, such as increased anxiety and irritability, headaches, confusion, and lightheadedness.

Are There Any Precautions to Taking Celexa?

There are several precautions and contraindications to consider when taking Celexa:

Black Box Warning: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a black box warning in 2007, cautioning that the usage of SSRIs may lead to increased suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The FDA warned that this problem can be especially problematic for adolescents and young adults who are on SSRIs. Doctors who prescribe SSRIs, including Celexa, must be cautious and observe patients for declining mood or thoughts of suicide, especially for young people just beginning their prescription.

Pregnancy/Nursing: Celexa can be passed on from mother to child during pregnancy or while nursing. If you are pregnant or nursing, talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of taking Celexa.

Alcohol: Alcohol consumption should be avoided while taking Celexa. Alcohol has the potential to interfere with the effectiveness of Celexa.

Lightheadedness, Dizziness, and Drowsiness: Celexa can cause feelings of lightheadedness, dizziness, and drowsiness. When you are first getting used to the effects of Celexa, be cautious while driving or performing any other duties that require your full alertness and concentration.

The information provided here is simply an overview of many of the frequently asked questions about Celexa for panic disorder. The answers to these FAQs do not cover all possibilities, such as potential side effects, precautions, and contraindications. Always consult your medical provider about any questions and/or concerns you may have about your prescription.


Food & Drug Administration. Celexa (citalopram) Prescribing Information, 2015.

Dudley, William. Antidepressants. San Diego, CA: Reference Point Press, 2008.

Silverman, Harold M. The Pill Book. 14th ed. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2010.

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