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Celexa for Anxiety

The Bottom Line

  • Celexa is an FDA-approved medication used to treat depression;
  • It is used off-label for anxiety;
  • Available in tablets and oral solution.

What is Celexa?

Celexa is a brand name for Citalopram, a medication in the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class. It is used as an antidepressant to treat depression in adults. Its use in children with depressive disorders is not recommended, however, the efficacy in clinical trials has been found. Occasionally, a doctor may prescribe it off-label for anxiety, social phobia, and panic disorder. It is available in tablets or as an oral solution. 

Celexas antidepressant effects can be felt in 1 to 4 weeks. It is normally used short-term; long-term use is not recommended as it may increase risk of diabetes or abnormal heart rate or rhythm.

Can Celexa be taken for anxiety?

Celexa  can be prescribed off-label for anxiety, and is believed to be effective as a treatment for social anxiety disorder (SAD). It works by balancing the neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin, and dopamine which can affect mood. SSRI medications block the reuptake of serotonin, meaning more serotonin is present in the brain. Doctors may occasionally use it in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). However, this medication is not the first-line relief for anxiety disorders and is used when no other medication has relieved anxiety or when treatment has caused side effects.

Is Celexa FDA approved for anxiety?

Celexa is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat anxiety. However, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), its use is recommended for treatment of panic disorder. The FDA approved Citalopram only for depression in adults over 18 and issued a black box warning as this medication has the potential to increase suicidal thinking. 

What research supports Celexa for anxiety? 

  • Celexa was studied in a retrospective case observation. 13 subjects with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) were treated with a 33 mg dose of Citalopram daily for 12 weeks. After the clinical trial, all subjects reported significant improvements in GAD and depressive symptoms.
  • Celexa was studied for efficacy in children and adolescents with depressive and anxiety symptoms. For 8 weeks, 78 subjects were administered with a 20-40mg dose of Citalopram daily. 56% of subjects responded to Citalopram. Most observed side effects were mild, and no increase in suicidal thinking was reported.
  • Celexa was studied in elderly people with anxiety disorders. 34 subjects were administered with 10-20mg of Citalopram daily for 8 weeks. 65% responded to the treatment, although extreme sedation was commonly reported. 

What are the possible side effects?

Like all medications, Celexa may cause side effects. The most commonly reported side effects of Celexa include:

  • drowsiness;
  • nausea;
  • insomnia;
  • dry mouth;
  • asthenia;
  • vomiting.

When used for anxiety, withdrawal symptoms have been reported, including:

  • irritability;
  • vomiting;
  • nightmares;
  • dizziness;

Do not abruptly stop taking Celexa, as the body gets used to increased serotonin levels and sudden discontinuation may lead to disturbing thoughts. A doctor will gradually taper the dose of Citalopram to terminate the treatment with no side effects.

This medication has the potential for abuse and dependence and may be misused. Prescription and caution are required.

This medication may affect your alertness or cause drowsiness if you drive a car or operate heavy machinery. However, compared to other antidepressants, it is less likely to cause drowsiness. Consult your doctor before use.

Does Celexa have interactions with other medications?

Celexa may interact with certain medications, herbs, and health supplements. Speak to your doctor about all possible interactions to avoid negative effects.

The possible interactions which may interfere with the efficacy of Celexa or be dangerous include:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI);
  • Blood thinners;
  • Ibuprofen;
  • Aspirin;
  • Antidepressants such as Fluoxetine;
  • Antihistamines;
  • Allergy and cold medications;

The most dangerous interaction is with MAIO medications. Fatal events have been reported when taking MAOIs alongside Celexa. They have also been reported when discontinuing Citalopram and starting MAIO straightaway. Inform your doctor if you take MAIO medications or plan to take them alongside Citalopram.

Abstain from alcohol while taking Celexa, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns about potential overdose events. 

Can you take Celexa while pregnant or breastfeeding? 

It is not recommended for use in pregnant women. A doctor may occasionally prescribe it only if benefits outweigh the risks. 

It is not recommended in nursing mothers as Citalopram is excreted into human milk. Infants whose mothers took Celexa when breastfeeding have the potential to experience extreme drowsiness, and weight loss. 

Can children take Celexa for anxiety?

Children under 18 are not usually prescribed Celexa, however, a doctor may use it if benefits outweigh the risks.

How to take Celexa?

Celexa should be taken one time per day either in the morning or evening, with or without food. Try to make a habit of taking it at the same time daily. 

The initial dosage for adults is 20mg/daily. A doctor may increase it but not over 40 mg per day.

The initial dosage for the elderly is 20mg/daily. It should not be increased.

Overdose events have been reported, especially when taken with alcohol. Do not increase dosage yourself. Always speak to your doctor about a safe intake of Celexa. If you believe that you overdosed, seek emergency help immediately (call 911).

Are there alternatives to Celexa?

Prescription medications as Alternatives to Celexa for Anxiety 

Celexa is an antidepressant that is approved for depression treatment. A doctor may use it off-label for anxiety, however, it may not be fit for your particular case. Speak to your doctor about other prescription medications suitable for anxiety treatment. Some of them are:

  • Klonopin
  • Valium
  • Lexapro
  • Prozac
  • Buspirone
  • Xanax
  • Inderal
  • Cymbalta
  • Tofranil
  • Hydroxyzine
  • Zoloft

There are various alternatives. If you’d like to learn more about whether Celexa, another medication or treatment modality is right for you, we recommend that you speak with a licensed psychiatrist. Here are the best online psychiatry platforms so you can speak with someone right away!

Therapy as an Alternative to Celexa

Learn more about different therapy options for anxiety here

Energy & Holistic Modalities as an Alternative to Celexa

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Tech & Devices as Alternative Treatments to Celexa

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Disclaimer: This website does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

By Natalie Kirilova

Natalie is a writer with a focus in medical research with over 10 years of experience