FAQS on Lexapro for Panic Disorder

An Overview of Lexapro (Escitalopram)

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Lexapro is often prescribed to treat panic disorder. Photo © Microsoft

Panic disorder is a mental health condition that can greatly impact a person’s quality of life. Fortunately, there are numerous treatment options for panic disorder that can assist the panic sufferer in dealing with anxiety and other panic-related symptoms. Prescribed medication has become one of the most common treatments used to help in managing the symptoms of panic disorder. Lexapro (escitalopram) is one type of medication that is often prescribed to treat panic disorder and other conditions.

 

What is Lexapro?

Lexapro, the trademark name for the drug escitalopram, is a type of antidepressant medication. In particular, Lexapro belongs to a class of antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).  Since their initial introduction to U.S. consumers in the 1980s, SSRIs have proven to be safe and effective medications with fewer side effects than other antidepressants available at that time.

Aside from Lexapro (escitalopram), other common SSRIs include, Prozac (fluoxetine), Celexa (citalopram), Paxil (paroxetine), and Zoloft (sertraline). At first, doctors only prescribed SSRIs for the treatment of depression. Research studies later concluded that these types of antidepressants can safely and effectively treat other mood and anxiety disorders. Lexapro and other SSRIs are currently prescribed to treat a variety of mental health and medical conditions including, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), migraines, agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and panic disorder.

 

How Does Lexapro Work to Teat Panic Disorder?

Neurotransmitters are naturally occurring chemicals located in the brain that are responsible for regulating different bodily functions. It is thought that some of these neurotransmitters are imbalanced in those with mental health conditions. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked to the regulation of mood and a variety of processes, such as sleep, is considered to be imbalanced in those with mood and anxiety disorders.

Lexapro and other SSRIs work to re-establish the balance of serotonin in the brain.

By balancing out serotonin levels, Lexapro can help enhance mood, reduce anxiety, and assist in decreasing other panic-related symptoms. For instance, Lexapro may assist in reducing the frequency and severity of panic attacks. Additionally, Lexapro can aide in easing the symptoms of common co-occurring conditions, including depression, headaches and migraines, and other related anxiety disorders.

What Are the Side Effects of Using Lexapro?

As with any medication, there are some potential side effects related to the use of Lexapro. Some of the most common side effects of Lexapro include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Lightheadedness and faintness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Changes in weight and appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sexual side effects
  • Nausea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Irritability and nervousness
  • Digestive issues

Listed here are only some of the side effects you may experience while taking Lexapro. Most side effects should gradually decrease and discontinue as your body adjusts to the medication.

Your prescribing doctor will monitor your reaction as you adjust to Lexapro. Always consult your doctor if side effects worsen or become too bothersome.     

There is always some potential risk for experiencing an allergic drug reaction when taking any type of medication for the first time. Caution should also be taken when using Lexapro along with other medications. To help avoid any possible drug interactions, let your doctor know any other prescribed and over-the-counter medications you are currently taking. Seek immediate help if you experience any of the following unusual side effects of Lexapro:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Swelling of the face, mouth, or tongue
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Rash
  • Confusion
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors 

How Long Will it Take for Lexapro to Start Working?

You will most likely not experience immediate relief of panic disorder symptoms when you first begin taking Lexapro. It typically takes several days to weeks before you will notice any improvements. The full benefits of Lexapro may not be experienced until after several months of following your recommended prescription plan.

What if I Want to Stop Taking Lexapro?

Never abruptly discontinue your prescribed Lexapro without the guidance of your doctor. Withdrawal-like symptoms such as headaches, excessive nervousness, dizziness and flu-like symptoms may occur if you suddenly stop taking your prescription. Your doctor will be able to assist you in slowly reducing your dosage until you are completely off of Lexapro.

What Are the Precautions to Taking Lexapro?

There are several precautions and contraindications to taking Lexapro.

Black Box Warning: The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a black box warning that alerted consumers about the potential for increased suicidal thoughts and behaviors for those taking SSRIs, including Lexapro. The FDA cautioned that children, adolescents, and young adults are especially at risk for this issue. Any young people taking Lexapro need to be monitored for changes in mood and suicidal thoughts.  

Missing Doses: If you forget to take one of your Lexapro dosages, take it as soon as your remember. However, if it is close to your next scheduled dosage, take your regular dose instead and maintain your regular scheduled dosage. Two or more doses of Lexapro should never be taken at the same time. In order to experience the complete benefits of Lexapro, it is important that you take your medication regularly as prescribed. 

Pregnancy and Nursing: Lexapro can be passed to the child during pregnancy or while nursing. If you are pregnant or nursing, discuss with your doctor about any potential risks of taking Lexapro. 

Alcohol: Avoid any alcohol consumption while you are taking Lexapro. Using alcohol can heighten the toxicity of Lexapro and potentially decreasing its effectiveness.

Older Adults: The side effects of Lexapro can be more severe for older adults. Monitoring and dosage adjustments can be made to help reduce side effects in older adults.

Disclaimer: The information here is meant to provide an overview of Lexapro for panic disorder. These FAQs do not address every outcome, issue, side effect, or precaution to taking this medication. Any questions or concerns you may have about your Lexapro prescription should always be discussed with your prescribing physician. 

Sources:

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

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

 

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