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Antidepressants are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S. With more than 40 million people using them every month, this class of medication has been helping people robbed by the qualms of depression, making it difficult for them to concentrate on day-to-day activities. Despite the high therapeutic efficacy, antidepressant medications, such as Lexapro, come with certain risks tied to their use, including withdrawal.
Read Also: Are Antidepressants Addictive?
There are multiple reasons why someone may consider quitting Lexapro, for example, too many side effects, inefficacy, or improvement in underlying depressive symptoms. Regardless of the reason, stopping this medication must be carefully planned out and monitored as it can quickly lead to highly uncomfortable side effects, collectively known as withdrawal. If you or someone you love has been on Lexapro and wish to come off, the best way is to discuss the intentions with a healthcare professional. These professionals can guide best about how to help Lexapro withdrawal and manage the experience safely without exposing the body to any significant risks.
Signs and Symptoms of Lexapro Withdrawal: An Overview
Despite being categorized under the same drug class, different SSRI medications impact the brain differently. Moreover, the symptoms may also vary from one person to another, ranging from mild to severe. On a scale of lowest to highest chances of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, Lexapro is present somewhere in the middle.
Research indicates that the severity of an SSRI antidepressant medication, such as Lexapro, is much worse than experts previously believed. Approximately half of the individuals experiencing these withdrawal symptoms categorize them as severe. These severe symptoms indicate that withdrawal can interfere with their ability to live normally and tend to their responsibilities at work and home. Below are some symptoms that a person withdrawing from Lexapro may expect to encounter.
Most Common Symptoms
These symptoms are the ones that occur in more than one out of every four people withdrawing from Lexapro and may include the following:
- Trouble remembering things
- Trouble concentrating
Less Common Symptoms
Rarely some people attempting to get off Lexapro may develop more rare withdrawal symptoms, such as the following:
- Mood Control Changes: These may include muscle tension, tremors and shakiness, unsteady gait, restless legs, and difficulty controlling chewing movements and speech.
- Digestive Issues: These may include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, cramps, and loss of appetite.
- Flu-Like Symptoms: Lexapro may cause several flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, tiredness, muscle pain, and extreme weakness.
- Sleep Issues: Getting off Lexapro can disturb sleep, leading to unusual dreams, nightmares, excessive or vivid dreams, and insomnia.
- Instability: Some people tapering off Lexapro may complain of feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or having difficulty walking.
- Mood Changes: Stopping Lexapro can make some people unstable, leading to problems like anxiety, panic, agitation, depression, mania, anger, irritability, and mood swings.
- Unusual Sensations: Lexapro can also cause electrical shock or shivers in the brain, also known as brain zaps. Others complain of experiencing strange taste, ringing in the ears, pins, and needles, and hypersensitivity to sounds as a part of the withdrawal process.
For many people, Lexapro withdrawal can take a toll on life emotionally and physically. As the body starts lacking this medication, the brain’s serotonin levels start dipping, and it may take some time for the organ to adjust to the new normal. However, seeking help from a professional and adopting alternative coping mechanisms can make the process easier.
How to Stop Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms: Coping Tips to Remember
People who are planning to stop taking Lexapro must plan out how they want to manage the withdrawal episode that will follow. These withdrawal episodes can quickly become highly uncomfortable and risky; hence, having a strategy in mind can greatly help. Fortunately, many healthy coping mechanisms help make the process easier and provide benefits in both the long and short term. Once the withdrawal begins, it may become difficult to think clearly under the stress of all the negative effects. Hence, try to have a coping plan in place before you experience these symptoms.
Following are the top nine strategies to relieve Lexapro withdrawal symptoms:
Aim to get adequate sleep.
Sleep has a significant effect on mental health. Getting enough high-quality sleep can help speed up the healing process and allow the body to handle the withdrawal symptoms better. Consider adopting a good sleep hygiene routine by limiting screen time and caffeine intake closer to bedtime.
Stick to exercising regularly.
Exercising is beneficial for physical health and positively impacts mental health, especially in people with pre-existing depression and anxiety. While it may be difficult to exert any physical exertion during withdrawal, try mild to moderate workouts to relieve anxious and stressful thoughts and boost the natural production of happy hormones in the brain.
Let your loved ones know.
Self-harm remains one of the biggest and the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms of Lexapro. So let your loved ones know as you begin the process so they can keep an eye on you during this crucial time and call for help on your behalf when things worsen.
Like sleep, the human body needs constant energy and fuel to push through stressful withdrawal times. So decide beforehand how to maintain healthy dietary habits to fuel your body with all nutrients and minerals it needs to recover well.
Rely on OTC medications.
Some mild symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal are easily manageable with the help of over-the-counter medications. For example, consider using ibuprofen or paracetamol for flu-like symptoms, melatonin for insomnia, and cyclizine or meclizine for nausea. Remember to ask a doctor or pharmacist to ensure that whatever you have is safe.
Talk to a therapist.
Speaking with a therapist has helped many people get through a withdrawal safely and effectively. If you are not already seeing a therapist, consider working with one, as they can monitor your withdrawal process and make the transition easier.
Find a support group.
Seek support from people in similar situations as they can better understand your struggles and guide you from experience. Many local support groups offer help and support to people fighting withdrawal by validating their experiences in a non-judgmental environment. These groups are accessible in-person or remotely through online resources, depending on suitability.
Try a different antidepressant.
Sometimes, when withdrawal symptoms become particularly severe, a doctor may suggest trying another type of antidepressant medication. This switching is mostly an alternative measure to relieve the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms while helping the body establish a new normal. However, remember that this tip must only be followed at the direction of a certified healthcare professional.
Try slow tapering.
One of the most effective ways to minimize the Lexapro withdrawal side effects is to taper off the medication slowly. The process involves adjusting the medication dose by a small amount and gradually decreasing it unless the body habitually has it in lower doses. A healthcare professional can make a tapering schedule for each patient after assessing their circumstances and monitoring the process.
In the past, the tapering process was relatively quicker, allowing patients to jump to the minimum therapeutic dose relatively quickly. However, recent research has outlined newer approaches for treating and preventing the withdrawal symptoms of Lexapro and other antidepressant medications through a long, very slow taper lasting more than one month. Despite being slow, the process has shown positive results with minimum discomfort.
Lexapro Withdrawal Side Effects: Warnings
As you stop or taper your daily Lexapro dose, you may put yourself at several risks, including suicidality. Many large-scale studies have established a link between antidepressant discontinuation and suicidal ideation. It is imperative to keep this risk in mind as you go through a withdrawal experience. Seek help immediately the moment you notice experiencing unusually strong depressive symptoms and feel vulnerable.
Experts advise everyone who is slowly tapering off Lexapro or has a loved one going through this phase to keep an eye on the following warning signs:
- Becoming preoccupied with death or violence
- Feeling extremely hopeless or trapped
- Engaging in risky or self-destructive tasks, such as driving drunk
- Gathering the means to commit suicide, for example, stacking pills or buying bullets
- Experiencing intense mood swings
- Saying goodbye to people as if it were the last time
- Getting everyday responsibilities in order as if preparing to end life
- Planning how to commit suicide
- Giving away belongings
- Thinking or talking about suicide more than normal
What happens when you stop taking Lexapro?
Lexapro belongs to a category of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant medication that works by blocking the flow-through of the serotonin neurotransmitter along the nerve channels of the central nervous system. As the brain senses this serotonin buildup, it stops producing this neurotransmitter and starts relying on the medication to get the job done. When a person whose brain has adapted to the antidepressant taking care of the serotonin production suddenly stops taking Lexapro, the levels of this neurotransmitter drop, contributing to a host of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. The body tries to fight back and adjust to these dropped levels, but it takes some time for which a user continues experiencing these symptoms. In light of this mechanism, experts advise against stopping the medication use all of a sudden and focus on slowing tapering it off so that the body does not go into a shock.
What is the Lexapro withdrawal timeline?
The time of Lexapro withdrawal symptoms can vary from one individual to another. Not everyone will experience a full range of symptoms; some may not even feel anything. Most people generally recover from a withdrawal within seven to ten days following the last dose. However, several factors may affect this timeline, such as the following:
- How long an individual has been taking Lexapro
- The daily dosage
- How they decide to quit, for example, cold turkey or through slow tapering
For some people, especially those who have been using or abusing Lexapro for a long time, may continue to stay in the withdrawal phase for weeks or even months. Such people should take help from a professional to fight these symptoms and ward them off as quickly as possible.
Why would someone attempt quitting Lexapro cold turkey?
Several reasons may provoke people to stop taking Lexapro all of a sudden. For instance, they may feel that:
- The medication is causing too many side effects
- Their body is not responding to it as well as they have hoped
- The medication is ineffective in controlling symptoms
- It is time to quit abusing Lexapro and adopt a healthier, addiction-free lifestyle
Regardless of why someone may consider quitting Lexapro, it is crucial not to do it cold turkey and seek help from a professional to proceed safely without risking health.
What is the difference between Lexapro discontinuation and relapse of depression symptoms?
Many people anticipate experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they consider stopping Lexapro. However, what they do not take into account is the risk of a depression relapse. Both conditions can present very similarly; however, the symptoms of a depression relapse are psychological, such as worsening mood, and are less likely to affect physical health. It is crucial to continue adopting non-medication treatment to manage underlying anxious and depressive thoughts. A withdrawal episode, on the other hand, can be a mix of physical and psychological symptoms. Another factor that distinguishes a depression relapse from a withdrawal episode is the former may take much longer to settle. The withdrawal symptoms generally go away within a week, whereas relapse symptoms continue to linger and usually go away when the individual starts another antidepressant.
Can I fully recover from Lexapro withdrawal?
With careful monitoring, supervision, and guidance of a healthcare professional, it is possible to overcome LExapro withdrawal without risking your health or acquiring permanent damage. Most people can recover within seven to ten days but remember that they may still need to join a long-term rehabilitation program if they previously abused the drug or were addicted to it.