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How long does it take Celexa (citalopram) to work?

How long does it take Celexa (citalopram) to work?

You can feel Celexa starting to work within 2-4 weeks. It takes 8-12 to get the full antidepressant and anti-anxiety benefits of the medication.

Reviewed by:
Michael Roman, MD
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May 30, 2024
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If you take Celexa—known in its generic form as citalopram—you may have some questions, including how long it takes to work, what side effects you may experience, and how to know if it’s effective. Don’t worry, having questions about a new medication is completely normal.  

Celexa is an antidepressant medication commonly prescribed to treat major depression. However, it’s also safe and effective for a variety of off-label uses, including as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and panic disorder. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Celexa, including how long you need to be on the medication before it starts working.

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How long does it take for Celexa to work for anxiety?

Celexa is part of the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor)class of antidepressants. SSRIs block neurons in your brain from reabsorbing serotonin, the chemical neurotransmitter responsible for your mood. The result is more serotonin in your brain, which means more assistance in mood regulation. This increase in serotonin levels helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Other antidepressants treatment options that work in a similar vein include Lexapro (escitalopram) and Zoloft (sertraline).

It takes a few weeks to achieve this rebalancing in your brain. Many people begin to feel the effects of the medication in the first 2-4 weeks after starting the medication. However, it’s possible it will take 8-12  weeks to feel the full effects.

Remember, starting medication for your mental health isn’t a perfect science. You may need to work with your healthcare provider to find the correct dose and the right medication for you. If Celexa isn’t helping after the first 6 weeks, your provider may change the dose. It’s important to be patient with yourself during this transition period.  

How will I know if Celexa is working?

You may begin feeling different after taking Celexa for a few weeks. How different? Well, everyone is different, and our brain chemistry and mental health struggles react to medication slightly differently. However, if you begin feeling the effects described below, you’ll know it’s starting to work.  

Feeling like yourself

Antidepressants like Celexa aren’t meant to change your personality. In fact, they’re meant to help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety so you can lead a more authentic, fulfilling life. One great sign that Celexa is doing its job? You’re feeling more like yourself again.

Increased daily functioning

Sometimes, we don’t realize the toll anxiety and depression take on our minds and bodies until we’re treating them correctly. Once Celexa begins working, you may feel more focused, energized, and productive in your day-to-day life. Family and loved ones will also notice positive changes in you.

Better sleep

Getting your mental health in check often leads to improved sleep. That means you’re likely to have deeper, higher-quality sleep once your antidepressants begin working.  

Improved mood

When you find the right medication and dose, you’ll typically experience an improved mood. That doesn’t mean you won’t feel sad or frustrated sometimes, but you’ll experience a lighter, happier mood most of the time. If you were experiencing feelings of worthlessness, or a loss of interest in things, you might feel more positive changes in that regard as well.  

Reduced symptoms of anxiety or depression

Thanks to the increase in serotonin in your brain, you’ll be able to regulate your moods more steadily. The result? You’ll feel less anxious and depressed once Celexa starts working.  This might mean feeling less irritable and fewer struggles with concentration.

When is the best time to take Celexa?

It’s up to you and your doctor to decide what time of day you take Celexa. However, it’s best to take it at the same time every day. Most people choose to incorporate it into their daily morning or nighttime routines.

Whether you take it in the morning or at night is a personal preference. However, taking Celexa at night may help you sleep through some of the negative side effects. Ultimately, the most important thing is choosing a time you know you can consistently take it every day.

Monitoring Celexa’s effects

Like many medications, taking Celexa may result in unwanted side effects. Don’t worry, most side effects are mild and temporary as your body adjusts to the medication. If you’re concerned about potential side effects or feel any worsening reactions to the medication, talk to a healthcare professional right away.

Most common side effects of Celexa include

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sweating
  • Trouble sleeping

It is important to note that the majority of side effects are temporary and tend to resolve within the first 1-2 weeks of starting the medication.

Less common, more serious side effects can include a irregular heart rate or an increase in suicidal thoughts. Taking too much Celexa along with other medications or supplements that increase levels of serotonin can lead to serotonin syndrome.

Ongoing care and adjustments

Remember, medication isn’t a quick fix for mental health issues. It is, however, a very useful tool that many doctors prescribe as part of a larger mental health treatment plan.  

As you begin taking Celexa or any other antidepressant, make sure to keep regular contact with your primary care doctor or psychiatrist. It’s possible that you’ll need to try different doses, or different medications altogether, before you find the right treatment for you. Make note of any side effects and whether the medication is effective.  

It’s extremely important that you don’t stop taking Celexa without professional guidance. Abruptly stopping Celexa on your own may result in unwanted withdrawal symptoms.

If the medication isn’t working for you, your doctor will help you taper off the medication safely.

Many doctors will additionally encourage you to try therapy alongside medication, as research shows the combination is more effective than either treatment method alone. Be patient with yourself as you adjust to a new medication and therapy. It’s normal to sometimes feel overwhelmed, but you’re doing the right thing by taking your mental healthcare seriously. After all, positive mental health helps you live a more fulfilling, present life.

Get support with Talkiatry

With Talkiatry, you can see a psychiatrist from the comfort of your home, and you can schedule your first appointment in a matter of days. We’re a national psychiatry practice that treats a numbmer of mental health conditions and our doctors will work with you to find the right medication and treatment plan. Take our free online assessment to see if Talkiatry is right for you and get matched with a psychiatrist.  

The information in this article is for education and informational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

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Call the number on your insurance card and ask about your plan’s coverage for outpatient psychiatric services.

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For most patients, Talkiatry treatment is just as effective as in-person psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association, 2021), and much more convenient. That said, we don’t currently provide treatment for schizophrenia, primary eating disorder treatment, or Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.

What kind of treatment does Talkiatry provide?

At Talkiatry, we specialize in psychiatry, meaning the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Your psychiatrist will meet with you virtually on a schedule you set together, devise a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and preferences, and work with you to adjust your plan as you meet your goals.

If your treatment plan includes medication, your psychiatrist will prescribe and manage it. If needed, your psychiatrist can also refer you to a Talkiatry therapist.

What's the difference between a therapist and psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are doctors who have specialized training in diagnosing and treating complex mental health conditions through medication management. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or similar, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.  

Other signs that you should see a psychiatrist include:  

  • Your primary care doctor or another doctor thinks you may benefit from the services of a psychiatrist and provides a referral    
  • You are interested in taking medication to treat a mental health condition  
  • Your symptoms are severe enough to regularly interfere with your everyday life

The term “therapist” can apply to a range of professionals including social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychoanalysts. Working with a therapist generally involves regular talk therapy sessions where you discuss your feelings, problem-solving strategies, and coping mechanisms to help with your condition.

Who can prescribe medication?

All our psychiatrists (and all psychiatrists in general) are medical doctors with additional training in mental health. They can prescribe any medication they think can help their patients. In order to find out which medications might be appropriate, they need to conduct a full evaluation. At Talkiatry, first visits are generally scheduled for 60 minutes or more to give your psychiatrist time to learn about you, work on a treatment plan, and discuss any medications that might be included.

Michael Roman, MD

Dr. Michael Roman is currently a Staff Psychiatrist at Talkiatry. He completed his adult psychiatry residency training at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Roman is a board-certified Adult Psychiatrist and a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN).

Dr. Roman’s clinical practice centers primarily around medication management and psychopharmacological treatment approaches. He also specializes in a variety of psychotherapeutic modalities which he utilizes in conjunction with medication management in order to provide patients with the best possible treatment outcomes.

Dr. Roman’s curiosity for the studies of the human mind began with pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He was intrigued by the way our mind, body, emotions, and behavior were intertwined to comprise our everyday life experiences. His interest in the intricacy of the human mind was deepened in medical school, and he received his medical degree from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He completed his adult psychiatry residency training at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Roman treats a wide spectrum of patients, but his primary clinical focus is treating mood disorders, ADHD, anxiety disorders, and PTSD. Dr. Roman also specializes in treating substance use disorders and possesses clinical expertise in implementing high quality motivational interviewing and motivational enhancing therapy.

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