Celexa Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline & Treatment


Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin 

What is the most important information I should know about Celexa withdrawal?

  • Suddenly stopping Celexa can cause depression to return and lead to withdrawal symptoms; do not stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor.
  • If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking antidepressants during pregnancy.

Celexa (citalopram) is a commonly prescribed antidepressant. It is part of a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Celexa is an FDA-approved treatment for the symptoms of major depression, but it is also used off-label to treat anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorders, and eating disorders.

Like other antidepressants, quitting Celexa can lead to withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking or lower the dose of your medication.

Celexa Withdrawal

All antidepressants have the potential to cause withdrawal symptoms. Although newer antidepressants like Celexa are less likely to lead to adverse reactions while you’re taking them, when you quit it’s a totally different story.

Fortunately, Celexa is not one of the antidepressants that causes the worst withdrawal symptoms. However, it can still be uncomfortable and present challenges.

Overall, more than half (56%) of people quitting antidepressants experience withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can last for weeks or longer. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict how—or if—you will be affected.

Common symptoms of Celexa withdrawal include dizziness, irritability, sensory and flu-like symptoms. Occasionally, the dizziness can get so bad that it becomes hard to stand up.

When you quit Celexa, there is a possibility that you will relapse and begin experiencing symptoms of depression again. Discontinuing your dose can also lead to an increase in suicidal thinking and behavior.

Signs & Symptoms of Celexa Withdrawal

Celexa is an SSRI that works by increasing serotonin levels in your brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) that regulates mood and anxiety, among other functions. When you take SSRIs regularly for an extended period of time, your brain becomes accustomed to this level of serotonin.

When your dose is suddenly discontinued or reduced, your brain has to adjust to lower levels of serotonin. This adjustment period can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Celexa has a half-life of about 35 hours, meaning it takes 35 hours for half of the drug to leave your system. It takes about one week for the drug to leave your system entirely. This is good, because it means withdrawal won’t hit hard and fast as soon as your dose is discontinued.

For most people, Celexa withdrawal begins within two to four days of your last dose. Symptoms may continue for anywhere from one to two weeks. Keep in mind that antidepressant withdrawal duration is a difficult thing for researchers to measure, which means that experiences can vary.

The severity of SSRI withdrawal symptoms also varies widely. Research has found that the severity is worse than what doctors once believed. Researchers estimate that nearly half (46%) of people going through SSRI withdrawal describe their symptoms as severe. People with severe symptoms may have difficulty fulfilling their responsibilities at home and at work. 

To get a better idea of the range of symptoms and symptom severity, you may want to check out the Discontinuation-Emergent Signs and Symptoms Scale (DESS), which clinicians sometimes use. 

The following is the complete list of symptoms associated with SSRI withdrawal:

  • Digestive: You may experience nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, or appetite loss.
  • Balance: You may become dizzy or lightheaded, sometimes making walking difficult.
  • Sleep problems: You may have nightmares, unusual dreams, excessive/vivid dreams, or insomnia.
  • Overall: You may have flu-like symptoms, including headache, muscle pain, weakness, and tiredness.
  • Mood: You may have anxiety, agitation, panic, suicidal ideation, depression, irritability, anger, or mood swings.
  • Bizarre sensations: You may experience brain zaps (like an electrical shock or shiver in your brain), pins and needles, ringing in the ears, strange tastes, or hypersensitivity to sound.
  • Heat tolerance: You may have excessive sweating, flushing, or intolerance to high temperatures.
  • Motor control: You may have tremors, muscle tension, restless legs, unsteady gait, or difficulty controlling speech and chewing movements.

Coping & Relief for Celexa Withdrawal

If you are having trouble quitting Celexa, don’t worry, you have options. If you are quitting Celexa because your depression has abated and you have determined with your doctor that it makes sense to come off your antidepressant, you may want to consider a taper.

What Is Tapering?

Tapering a medication means incrementally reducing your dose over the course of several weeks or months. When it comes to SSRIs like Celexa, tapering isn’t always effective in avoiding withdrawal symptoms, but recent research has found more promising results.

New research suggests that a very slow taper (lasting several months) that continues well beyond therapeutic levels may help successfully manage withdrawal symptoms. This means that by the end of your taper, you will be taking a much smaller dose then what you started on. Your taper may continue until you are taking almost nothing.

If tapering isn’t working or you are still experiencing breakthrough symptoms, there are other steps you can take. A good first step is to reach out for support from family, friends, and other people struggling with antidepressant withdrawal.

When you have social support, you are less likely to feel isolated, ashamed, or alone. When friends and family know what to expect, they can forgive you for being more anxious or agitated then normal. You can also look online for groups of people going through the same thing as you. It’s a great place to trade tips and tricks that you hadn’t thought of. Here are a few examples: 

  • Psychotherapy: Therapy can improve mood, reduce anxiety, soothe irritability.
  • OTC medications: You can treat aches and pains or flu-like symptoms with over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-nausea medications. 
  • Exercise: Getting about 45 minutes of moderate activity three times a week can improve mood and reduce stress.
  • Natural remedies: Vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements can boost energy, reduce stress, and treat insomnia.

Celexa Withdrawal Warnings

Celexa, like other SSRIs, comes with a warning from the FDA about the potential increased risk of thoughts of suicide and suicidal behaviors in children and young adults. When you quit or change your dose, your risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors may increase. 

If you or someone you love is quitting or has quit Celexa, it is important to know what to look for. Contact a doctor or emergency services if any of the following symptoms arise:

  • Planning how you would commit suicide if you were going to do it
  • Talking or thinking about suicide more than normal, for example, “I wish I were dead”
  • Gathering the means to commit suicide, such as bullets or pills
  • Feeling hopeless or trapped
  • Having intense mood swings
  • Engaging in risky or self-destructive activities, such as driving drunk
  • Becoming preoccupied with death, dying, or violence
  • Getting affairs in order or giving away belongings
  • Saying goodbye to people as if it were the last time 

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Celexa and Pregnancy

If you become pregnant while taking Celexa, you have some decisions to make. Talk to your OB-GYN about the risks and benefits of continuing antidepressants during your pregnancy.

There is a small risk that women who take antidepressants during their second and third trimesters could experience preterm labor.

Unfortunately, women who choose to discontinue antidepressant therapy are five times more likely to have a depression relapse. Post-partum depression is harmful to both mother and baby.

Long-Term Treatment

Your treatment outlook will depend on a variety of factors, such as why you have decided to quit antidepressants and what symptoms you are currently experiencing. If you are quitting Celexa because it wasn’t working or because the side effects were too much, then you should continue to seek treatment from a qualified mental health professional.

A psychiatrist can help you switch to another antidepressant, while a psychologist or therapist of another discipline can provide psychotherapy-based treatment. Keep in mind that psychotherapy and antidepressants can both effectively treat many of the symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders.

Research has found that people who discontinue antidepressants when they are in remission from depressive episodes have a 40% to 50% risk of experiencing a relapse in depressive symptoms.

To reduce your chances of relapse, it is often important to continue on an antidepressant and participate in therapy. For example, remaining on antidepressants six to 12 months after remission lowers the risk of relapse between 13% and 20%.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and other universities have found that people engaging in psychotherapy while discontinuing antidepressants are less likely to relapse than those who do not. 


If you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (988). You will be connected with staff or volunteers at a nearby crisis center. The people on the other end of the line can listen and help you figure out what to do next. It is available 24/7, 365 days per year. If you are hesitant to call, you may prefer to chat with a counselor. The chat services are also open 24/7. 

If you are interested in finding a new psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist in your area, there are several ways to find one. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a searchable directory of qualified providers. You can also call them at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and a knowledgeable operator will search for you.

If you have health insurance, you can also search the company’s list of local providers who accept your insurance. Most insurance companies have at least some mental health coverage, including state and federal plans.

11 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Corinne O’Keefe Osborn
Corinne Osborn is an award-winning health and wellness journalist with a background in substance abuse, sexual health, and psychology.