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How long does Lexapro take to work?

How long does Lexapro take to work?

It can take 6-8 weeks to feel the full effects of Lexapro, but you may see some relief to your symptoms in the first two weeks.

Reviewed by:
Brenda Camacho, MD
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June 28, 2024
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Key takeaways

  • Common side effects of Lexapro that may be signs it's working include fatigue, sweating, and sexual dysfunction.
  • You may feel it starting to work in a few weeks, but it can take as long as a few months to feel the full benefits of your dose.
  • It's important to take Lexapro consistently to see get the complete effects.
In this article

When dealing with mental health conditions like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD), finding the right treatment can be a crucial step towards recovery. Lexapro, a common SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), has helped many people manage their symptoms.  

If you’re just starting Lexapro, you may wonder how quickly it’ll work. In this article we’ll discuss relevant aspects of Lexapro treatment and when you might expect to see improvements.  

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Initial effects and the first week

It's important to note that the full benefits of Lexapro usually aren't felt immediately. For many patients, noticeable improvements in mood and anxiety symptoms may take a few weeks. Initial effects, such as better sleep, appetite, and reduced anxiety, might be seen within the first 1-2 weeks.

During the first week, some people might also experience mild side effects as their body adjusts to the medication. These can include tiredness, increased anxiety, increased sweating, vivid or odd dreams, and sexual side effects. Most side effects are mild and tend to diminish as the body adjusts to the medication. However, if they persist or become troublesome, it's important to consult with your doctor.

Full benefits and timeline

How long it takes for Lexapro to work can depend on your dosage, what you’re taking it for, and how you respond to medication. While some people may notice changes within the first two week, it generally takes about 4 weeks for Lexapro to build up in the system and reach its full effect. For some people, depending on the type of anxiety you have and your age, it can take 6-8 weeks or even up to 3 months to get the full effect of that dose." This period allows the medication to alter the levels of serotonin in the brain sufficiently to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. For some individuals, it might take even longer, and patience is key.  

When is the best time to take Lexapro?

Lexapro is typically taken once daily, either in the morning or evening with or without food. Your doctor may recommend taking it in the morning, or at night. If Lexapro makes you drowsy, taking it before bedtime may be preferable. If Lexapro wakes you up, then be sure to take it in the morning. If you find that it doesn’t effect you either way, then it does not matter what time of day you take it. Pick the time of day that is easiest for you to remember since taking it everyday is essential for the medication to have a chance to work.

What does it feel like when Lexapro starts to work?

Lexapro works by helping to restore the balance of serotonin in your brain. This neurotransmitter plays a key role in regulating mood, sleep, appetite, and other bodily functions. So when Lexapro starts working, you may begin to notice subtle changes in how you feel both mentally and physically.

6 signs Lexapro is working

  • Improved mood and outlook
  • Reduced feelings of anxiety or worry
  • More restful, uninterrupted sleep
  • Increased energy and motivation
  • Better concentration and focus
  • Decreased depression or overactivity

What if it’s not working?

If you've been taking Lexapro for 4 weeks and aren't noticing any improvement in your symptoms, then you should talk to your doctor about trying a higher dose. If you and your doctor continue to increase the dose and you continue to notice no benefit,  

it may mean the medication isn't the right fit for you. This can happen, as individual brain chemistry and responses to medications can vary.

In this case, don't get discouraged. Talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling and they can help explore other treatment options, and try a different SSRI or another type of antidepressant.  With some trial and error, you and your provider can find the right solution to help you feel better.

The bottom line is that Lexapro can be an effective treatment for depression and anxiety, but it may take some time to start working. Be patient, track your progress, and work closely with your provider to optimize your treatment plan.

Don’t stop on your own

If you want to stop taking Lexapro, don’t do so on your own or abruptly. Stopping Lexapro suddenly can lead to discontinuation symptoms (sometimes referred to as withdrawal symptoms) such as dizziness, sensory disturbances, and irritability. It's important to taper off the medication under a doctor's guidance to minimize these effects.

Here's more on starting and stopping antidepressants.


What is Lexapro?

Lexapro, also known by its generic name escitalopram, is a prescription medication primarily used to treat anxiety and depression. It belongs to a class of drugs called SSRIs, which function by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain.

What can Lexapro treat?

While Lexapro is primarily used for anxiety and depression, it may be prescribed off-label for other conditions such as panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

What are serious side effects of Lexapro?

While rare, Lexapro can cause serious side effects that require immediate medical attention. If any of the following occur, it is critical to seek medical help promptly.

  • Allergic reactions (rash, itching, swelling)
  • Serotonin syndrome (a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by high levels of serotonin)
  • Increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior, especially in young adults
  • High blood pressure
  • Severe dizziness or fainting

Does Lexapro work faster than other medications?

Other antidepressant medications typically take about the same amount of time to reach its full effects, but everyone’s response can vary. Alternatives to Lexapro include other SSRIs like Zoloft (sertraline) and Celexa (citalopram), SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) like Cymbalta (duloxetine), MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors), TCAs (tricyclic antidepressants), and atypical antidepressants like Wellbutrin (bupropion).

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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Frequently asked questions

Does Talkiatry take my insurance?

We're in network with major insurers, including:

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Even if your insurer isn't on the list, we might still accept it. Use the insurance eligibility checker in our online assessment to learn more.

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The best way to get a detailed estimate of your cost is to contact your insurance company directly, since your cost will depend on the details of your insurance.  

For some, it’s just a co-pay. If you have an unmet deductible it could be more.  

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

How does Talkiatry compare to face-to-face treatment?

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.

Brenda Camacho, MD

Dr. Brenda Y. Camacho holds the position of Staff Psychiatrist at Talkiatry. She is board-certified in Adult Psychiatry. She has been practicing for over 25 years.

While having treated a wide range of adult patients, Dr. Camacho’s primary focus is treating adult outpatients with mood or psychotic disorders. Her practice focuses on medication management. Typically, she offers this in conjunction with supportive or insight-oriented therapy in 30-minute follow-up visits. On occasion, Dr. Camacho will believe additional therapy is also needed and asks that you bring a therapist into your care team to provide the best outcome.

Dr. Camacho completed her undergraduate studies at Tufts University. She received her medical degree from Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA and then continued with Temple for her residency in adult psychiatry. After completing training, Dr. Camacho worked at Cooper Hospital in Camden NJ as Associate Director of Consultation/Liaison Service and Psychiatry Residency Training and Co-Director of the Neuropsychiatry Clinic. She then began working exclusively in outpatient settings, joined NewPoint Behavioral Health Care, and served as Medical Director before and after their merge with Acenda Integrated Health.

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