An Overview of Lexapro for Social Anxiety Disorder

Lexapro
Lexapro is used to treat anxiety disorders. Getty/Getty Images News/Joe Raedle

Lexapro (escitalopram) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Although Lexapro isn't approved by the FDA for the treatment of social anxiety disorder (SAD), it's considered appropriate for the treatment of this condition and is often prescribed by doctors.

Effectiveness of Lexapro for Social Anxiety Disorder

Research has repeatedly shown that Lexapro is effective for treating social anxiety disorder. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) lists Lexapro (escitalopram) as a first-line pharmacological treatment for SAD, along with Celexa (citalopram), Viibryd (vilazodone), and the medications that are FDA-approved for treating SAD, Paxil (paroxetine), both immediate-release and controlled release, Zoloft (sertraline), Luvox (fluvoxamine) controlled release, and Effexor (venlafaxine) extended release.

How to Take Lexapro

Lexapro may be taken as tablets or an oral solution once daily, in the morning or evening, with or without food.

Dosage Guidelines

The usual recommended daily dosage of Lexapro is 10 mg, but your doctor may begin at a lower dose. The dosage can be increased slowly to 20 mg or higher if needed. It can take anywhere from one to four weeks to feel better once you start taking Lexapro.

Who Shouldn’t Take Lexapro

You should not take Lexapro if you're hypersensitive to escitalopram oxalate. The effectiveness of Lexapro for use with children younger than 18 years of age has not been established and it's not generally recommended for kids under the age of 12.

Medication Interactions

Lexapro should not be combined with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and only used with tryptophan, other SSRIs, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and St. John's wort with significant caution and close monitoring due to the potential for serotonin syndrome.

Use Lexapro with caution if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.

Tell your doctor about any prescription and over-the-counter medications you're taking, particularly if you're taking aspirin, warfarin, medication for seizures, anxiety, depression, or migraines, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Motrin (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen).

Side Effects

The most common side effects of taking Lexapro include:

  • Insomnia or sleepiness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Appetite increase
  • Sweating
  • Flu-like symptoms

Often, side effects go away after a short time, but if they don't or they're severe, let your doctor know.

If you have severe side effects like feeling unusually excited, having hallucinations, or you have a fever, sweating, stiff muscles, confusion, and your heartbeat is fast, be sure to call your doctor immediately.

Associated Risks

Using Lexapro can carry risks, including the potential for clinical worsening, increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, particularly in younger individuals, serotonin syndrome, and withdrawal effects. Close monitoring by your psychiatrist or doctor is important.

If you have been prescribed this medication by your doctor, be sure to follow the instructions carefully. If you have additional questions, these are best answered by a medical professional.

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