My girlfriend (the currently lapsed poster Amelioration) has recently been diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and has just started taking the drug Lexapro and, naturally, she is worried about the side effects. I want to be able to reassure her but beyond the statistics that she looked up I know nothing about the drug and while anecdotes aren’t statistically valid they tend to be more reassuring. So I was hoping some people here might have some experience with Lexapro and could share anything that might help, what kind of side effects you might have had, how long they lasted etc. I really appreciate help I can get.
My wife was prescribed Lexapro by her physician for depression and anxiety. It was an absolute nightmare.
While it helped her symptoms, she couldn’t deal with the side effects. She gained weight, and it killed her libido. What’s worse was that if she missed a dose, or took it too late, it made her nauseated to the point that she couldn’t work for days.
It all started when she decided to quit the medicine cold-turkey because of the initial side effects. Within a day of quitting, she had flu-like symptoms that put her in bed for a week. After four days of constant throwing up, she did some research online that indicated that it might be related to Lexapro withdrawal. Upon restarting the medication, her symptoms disappeared within a day. Meanwhile, her doctor denied that these side effects could be related to stopping the medication.
She felt trapped that she could not get off the medication, and terrified that she would miss a dose. It was like being addicted. If we had any trouble with a prescription refill or anything, she would be incapacitated.
Eventually, she started seeing another doctor for the sole purpose of weaning her off the medication. It took nearly two years. To reduce her dose down from 5 mg (the smallest pill), she had to switch to the liquid form so that she could decrease the dose by one drop per week.
While on the medication, she had times where she would be sitting at work, and the symptoms would come on. She would get diapheretic (sweating profusely) accompanied by incapacitating nausea. On the drive home, she would have to stop repeatedly to throw up. She started keeping a bucket in the car for the trips home.
The worst part was that both her original physician and the second physician made it apparent that they felt she was exaggerating her side effects. My wife is a registered nurse, and this upset her even more.
Today, she’s finally off the medication. Unfortunately, she’s also back to being depressed and anxious, but refuses to even consider medication after the last experience.
My ex-wife had pretty much the same experience on Lexapro. Gained weight, killed her libido, nausea problems related to timing of dosages.
The worst part was that she seemed to get a great deal WORSE on the mental illness front when she started taking it. What had been a slow, halting descent with periods of progress became a rocket ship into the abyss. Of course, my personal theory is that the depression and anxiety issues were only symptoms of much deeper problems that weren’t getting treated - and so the meds were wrong for her because they were not treating the real problems.
On the general subject of withdrawal, I was on a bare minimum dose of Effexor during our brief marriage, more to satisfy her than myself. It too was a nightmare to get off of, and I had to do it cold-turkey during my divorce process because my doctor refused to help me and insisted that I stay on it. It was a really good thing that I wasn’t working at the time, because I would not have been able to work and generally avoided even driving during that first hellish week.
Many men in my life are on Lexapro, including my husband. It works very well for him. The side effects mostly went away after the first couple of months. It quit working after a few more months, but they upped the dosage and he’s been happy with it for 2yrs now.
The only lingering side effects have been sexual, but they’re minor, and they’re better than being clinically depressed.
Right now he’s out of meds and I’m going to throttle him.
Lexapro is good. YMMV.
I have not taken Lexapro myself, but I did a lot of research into various antidepressant meds when I was suffering from post-partum depression, and found that the effects are highly variable by individual. Like, highly. The advice I’ve seen most often is that if you’re on a medication that causes intolerable side effects, or isn’t helping with the anxiety/depression, it’s appropriate to try a different medication instead. With the caveats that 1) this should be done under a doctor’s supervision, of course, and 2) all medications are going to have some amount of side effects.
I guess I was one of the luckier people; I did gain a few pounds (though when you’re starting at 105 even an extra 5 pounds is more than I’d have liked) and it did a number on not my libido as such but on my ability to orgasm, but otherwise it worked pretty well for me. I was on it for a bit over a year and have done okay since being off of it.
If nobody has told her to, she needs to ramp her dosage up slowly, not just start at full dose. And the same goes for if she goes off of it after any period of time at all. I tapered slowly and had no problems, but these sorts of drugs do cause all sorts of withdrawal problems if you go off them too quickly.
My wife takes it and I can ditto the sexual side effects statements. Not just reduced, it is almost non-existent. If I don’t make a move she could care less if we did it or not. When we do have sex, it takes her forever to climax. Incredibly frustrating for both of us.
It helped to stabilize her moods but it kills the bedroom.
Alistair McCello, please be aware that not everybody has trouble getting off of a particular med. I had read absolute horror stories about getting off of Effexor, like Chimera’s, but I took it for several months and had absolutely no problem getting off of it; I stopped with no tapering, and was fine. So its different for everyone.
I mentined getting off it under the idea of “better safe than sorry.”
I know somebody else who went off another of these drugs, the way her doc told her to (only two weeks cutting back!) and was feeling like crap for a couple of weeks until she mentioned to me that she’d gone off of it. Aha! Since then, she’s been tapering a lot more slowly and has had no more problems.
Everybody is different/. Lexapro is supposed to be easier on most people as far as side-effects go in general, but YMMV.
I guess I must be one of the lucky ones. After the year I had, losing my brother, my 6 year old cousin and her father in horrificly tragic accidents, my doctor finally decided to have me try Lexapro for my anxiety and depression. I’ve been on it for a little over a month, and so far, all of the initial symptoms (dizziness and a slight bit of nausea) are gone. I never did suffer the libido problems others complain about (thank OG!). The only symptom I still have are late afternoon headaches. I’ve been assured that those, too, will go away, so my fingers are crossed on that one.
I wish your girlfriend luck with whatever route she chooses!
The biggest benefit I experienced with Lexapro was right at the beginning last October, which said to me that it HAD to be just a placebo effect. Then I had colds ALL winter long, constant sinus infections. Those aren’t listed as a side-effect, officially, but I did find a lot of chat groups where people complained about it. I also had problems with doses being time-sensitive. Miss it by an hour and I’d feel dizzy. It seemed to stop working as well after a couple of months – I’d have mood swings as though I’d missed doses, even when I was taking it exactly as directed.
Getting off Lexapro has been a bitch, I’ve been somewhat dizzy and moody, but not ill to the point of vomiting. It’s been about six weeks now.
I’m thinking a good exercise plan is my best bet. YMMV.
This is Amelioration, hijacking Alistair’s account:
Thanks for the comments, everyone; they’ve been helpful in showing the broad scope and effects of this drug. It’s helping me realize that, at least for the moment, the potential side effects might damage my mental/social health more than the illness itself is, at least considering the amount of stress in my life at the moment.
whiterabbit (or anyone else who could potentially answer this), is tapering off the drug necessary, even if I’ve only been on it for five days? I’ve been taking 5 mg/day since last Thursday, but it’s impairing my ability to concentrate and I’ve noticed a sharp increase in headaches, sweating and general moments of brief panic since then. Since at the moment, the drug is doing me more harm than good (I’ve got lots of stressful things going on until the end of the semester), I’d like to postpone the Lexapro until after the end of finals. My plan is to taper off over the next couple days, using quarter doses, but I don’t know if I’ve already screwed up my system enough to need a longer tapering time to avoid withdrawal.
Thanks for your help!
Are you planning on going of antidepressants completely, or switching to one that may work better for you?
Things I’ve learned (although I am not a doctor):
My husband was warned not to expect an improvement for the first two weeks, or even up to a month. After a month, however, the change in his quality of living was apparent to anyone. (not wanting to off one’s self is great!)
My brother started on Effexor. After a 3mo trial, it was not working for him. It never worked for him at any point. His doctor switched him to Lexapro with no tapering off the Effexor. The 2nd one worked, but sporadically. Possibly because he only took it sporadically. I don’t think he’s on it right now. (but he’s also dropped out of school again and out of work)
And as an update to my above post, the latest shipment of pills came in today’s mail. I talked to my husband on the phone. The person I talked to this afternoon is a different person than the one in my house this morning (he was in withdrawl for several days). He feels *much * better already, and his headache is gone.
Looks like I don’t have to work late tonight after all.
I was on Lexapro briefly about 5 years ago. It didn’t harm my libido per se but made orgasm virtually unattainable. This was a side-effect I could not bear, so Lexapro and I parted ways.
My ex-to-be has been on it for a couple of years now and last I heard was helping her tremendously.
I have been on Lexapro for about a year. No serious side effects. I had reduced libido for a few months last spring, but no serious problems since then. I recommend taking it in the evening, about two hours before going to bed. I’ve found that this helps me sleep. Taking it in the morning tended to cause drowsiness. It is very important that it be taken consistently every day. Delaying a daily does, even by just half a day, can lead to severe mental symptoms.
I was in a severe depression when my iron level was border-line blood transfussion level. Doc prescribed Lexapro… It tossed me into a level of paranoia that scared the crap out of me because I thought I was losing my mind. Extreme anxiety issues, memory loss (I got lost 2 blocks from home because I didnt recognize anything), and a few other “fun” things.
I had a website that explained some people with bi-polar that was on Lexapro had bad reactions. Unfortunately, it’s on an old 'puter system so i’m not sure if I still have it.
I know you’re looking for info about a drug for anxiety, but I think you and your girlfriend should know that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is also an excellent treatment for anxiety (some studies say as effective as medication), especially if she is just developing symptoms. I would say (and her doctor should, too), that she shouldn’t be on medication alone for anxiety; the combination of medication and CBT are very effective to treat disordered anxiety.
- featherlou, recovered from an anxiety disorder and off meds for four years now.
I have been on Lexapro for awhile. I took myself off it (I do NOT recommend doing so), but I had no side effects from going “cold turkey”, or if I did, they were so minor, I did not notice them.
People are all over the map when it comes to SSRI’s, as can be seen in this thread. Someone in a thread a few months back called Lexapro, Sex-a-no. That’s it for me–no libido, no orgasm, no thought of sex–well, not quite. It lifted my mood enough where I could envision the possibility of perhaps having sex, but execution of same was too much to bother with (and how this is different than depression eludes me).
Other symptoms I notice while on Lexapro:
I tend to be more impulsive and jokey. Not always appropriately.
I am very tired–like I need a nap every afternoon. One good thing about this is that I do sleep well at night while on it.
At first there is a loss of appetite and I find I don’t crave sweets (choc) as much, but no real nausea for me.
No sweats, no paranoia, no dizziness. Just loss of libido, need for sleep and feeling revved up (not hyper or manic, just more willing to be silly in situations where I shouldn’t be clowning. Loss of inhibitions would be a good term).
I don’t plan on staying on it for much longer, but this time I will go off it with my doctor’s approval. (RNs are notorious at doctoring themselves, not always to their best interest. I am no different).
Do NOT take yourself off this all by yourself. Call your doctor. Share your concerns and symptoms. Let him or her decide with you. Hope you feel better soon.
I don’t think you’d need to taper after only five days.
The orgasm thing didn’t hit me for the first couple of months, when side effects are supposed to go away! It was worth it for a while, though, I was much more functional otherwise.
I take both Lexapro and Cymbalta. I took Lexapro alone for a while. I had been on Paxil previously.
I’ve lost about 100 pounds while on Lexapro. My libido is thinking about waking up again. I DO get the headache and nausea withdrawal symptoms if I skip a dose (usually because I’ve slept through the time I’d normally take my pills). Lexapro and Cymbalta seem to be a very good combination for me. However, in this field, people’s mileage does vary considerably.