When you are prescribed a medicine for a longer period of time, your internal system gets accustomed to it. This is particularly true for antidepressants. When you are taking antidepressants, you not only overcome your condition significantly, you also notice an overall improvement in your personal, professional and social life. A lot of people taking such drugs decide to quit them without the advice of their doctor or a proper plan. Giving up such drugs causes your body to undergo certain changes which are most of the time not healthy.
In this article, we will discuss the withdrawal symptoms of a common antidepressant known as Lexapro. Lexapro (escitalopram*) belongs to the group of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)**. It is used to treat severe depression in people over the age of 12. Apart from treating depression, it is also prescribed to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). If you have been taking it for a long time and now planning to quit, then you should expect some withdrawal symptoms and prepare yourself for them. The intensity and duration of the withdrawal period depend upon a number of factors.
Lexapro controls the chemical imbalance in your brain that causes anxiety and depression. Quitting it will bring psychological and physical symptoms as well. You can minimize these symptoms with controlled discontinuation as prescribed by your doctor. Uncontrolled withdrawal will only worsen the symptoms. These symptoms are explained below:
Psychological symptoms are rooted inside your brain. People in your surroundings might not notice them directly as you are the one facing them. Such as:
Anxiety – The most common aftereffect you are going to face is anxiety. The drug impacts the production of serotonin level in your brain which is directly linked to anxiety. Controlled withdrawal as instructed by your doctor can help you reduce anxiety in the post-Lexapro period.
Depression – Apart from anxiety, depression is also directly associated with Lexapro. When you stop taking antidepressants, it is very likely that you will be depressed again considering the chemical imbalance will resurface in your brain. When you are taking a certain drug, you become used to it. It is possible that you may feel more depressed after you stop taking it.
Brain Fog and Brain Zaps – Consequences of leaving Lexapro might lead you to a state of brain fog. Brain fog means you will suffer from lack of concentration. Some patients report that they are unable to focus on their personal and professional life after they quit Lexapro. This can happen due to two reasons, firstly the chemical balance of your brain is disturbed, and secondly, you are experiencing other withdrawal symptoms that keep you preoccupied. Brain zaps refer to the electric vibrations that you might feel after you stop using Lexapro. This is a common withdraw symptom that subsides in a week or two.
Abrupt Changes in Mood – It is another common withdrawal symptom. Since drugs like Lexapro alter the chemical composition of your brain, you are bound to experience mood swings after you quit it. You may feel like you are in a loop of emotions and there is not much you can do to avoid it other than being patient.
Suicidal Tendencies – Pre and post-Lexapro period are filled with suicidal thoughts for most of the patients. The tendency to do any such thing or harm one’s self is higher in the post-drug period. If you experience any difficulty in controlling such thoughts, it is recommended that you must visit your physician immediately as this can be dangerous in the long-run.
Sleeplessness – when you are on Lexapro, your sleeping pattern undergoes changes and your mind and body adjusts to these changes. When you stop taking it, these patterns continue and last for 2-3 weeks. You can take supplements to overcome this problem but it is better to wait and let the body adjust automatically.
Following symptoms fall under the category of physical symptoms
Body Pains – Your body is likely to undergo severe pains when you give up Lexapro. The reason is that your brain and body are trying to come to their normal state. You may also witness muscle spasms, joint pains, and headaches. You can deal with such symptoms by taking over the counter pain relieving pills and by staying well hydrated.
Nausea and Flu – You may have to tolerate vomiting, nausea, and flu as well. However, these symptoms will subside in 3-4 days.
Changes in Weight – While you are taking Lexapro, you may gain some weight. This is due to the fact that Lexapro and other antidepressants usually improve your appetite and you consume more. The slight changes in the weight can be shaken off after you quit taking Lexapro by doing some exercise.
Sexual Problems – Few patients have reported that they have suffered from sexual problems like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, vaginal lubrication problems, and nipple insensitivity.
Pregnancy – Pregnant women who take antidepressants are feared to give birth to babies with heart defects. However, this is not confirmed as research is in progress on this and nothing conclusive has been found in this regard.
What Controls the Severity of the Withdrawal Symptoms?
Researches have shown that each individual show variations in the withdrawal symptoms. Specialists in this field have highlighted the following factors that may impact the withdrawal symptoms
Dosage and Duration – quantity and duration for which you take a medicine impacts the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. When your mind and body becomes dependent on a certain drug, it becomes difficult for you to survive without it and when you quit, the withdrawal symptoms are more powerful. On the contrary, if you have taken Lexapro for a shorter period, the withdrawal will be easy. It is recommended that you should keep the dosage small regardless of the time you are taking it for.
Withdrawal Plan – In order to control the symptoms it is very important to have a proper discontinuation plan chalked out with your doctor. Leaving the drug “cold turkey” will not help you. Slowly reducing the dosage in accordance with your condition will control the symptoms and make withdrawal easy.
Human Anatomy – Human beings are complex structure and each one is different from another. How your body reacts to a certain process is different from how another individual reacts to the same process. It is possible that you might overcome all the withdrawal symptoms in a week and others need more time to deal with them.
Lexapro is a very effective drug when it comes to treating depression and anxiety. Please keep in mind that if you have liver, kidney or heart disease, you should inform your doctor. Apart from this if you experience seizures, have unnecessary bleeding or suicidal thoughts, you should be careful while taking Lexapro.
Lexapro should always be discontinued according to the directions of your doctor. It should never be stopped at once. The best way to stop taking antidepressants is to slowly decrease your dose under the guidance of the doctor. The intensity of the withdrawal symptoms in a planned fashion is less. However, if any of the withdrawal symptoms mentioned above persist or become severe, you need to consult your doctor on urgent basis.