Celexa for Anxiety Disorders

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Celexa (citalopram) belongs to a class of antidepressant medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Serotonin, sometimes called the feel-good neurotransmitter, regulates several aspects of brain function including sleep, mood, and emotion.

An SSRI like Celexa can prevent serotonin from being reabsorbed back into the nerve cells that previously released it. This simple act can improve mood, reduce feelings of anxiety, and decrease the severity of panic attacks and other panic disorder symptoms.


Celexa is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat major depressive disorder in adults, but it is sometimes prescribed off-label to treat other conditions. For example, if you've been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder, your doctor may prescribe Celexa to reduce your symptoms.

Other off-label uses for Celexa include:

Although commonly prescribed to adults, Celexa is rarely given to anyone younger than 18 years of age.


Dealing with the symptoms of panic disorder can be extremely difficult and it's normal to want to find relief as soon as possible.

When starting a new antidepressant medication, it's important to be patient and not expect immediate results.

Many people report that they notice positive changes and reduced symptoms within the first days to weeks of starting on Celexa, but it can take up to several months before the full effect of Celexa kicks in.

Precautions and Contraindications

Celexa may not be right for you if you have or have had certain medical conditions, including:

  • Bipolar disorder or mania
  • Bleeding problems
  • Heart problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Low sodium levels in your blood
  • Liver problems
  • Seizures
  • Stroke

Talk to your doctor about all medications, supplements, and vitamins that you currently take. While some drugs pose minor interaction risks, others may outright contraindicate use or prompt careful consideration as to whether the pros of treatment outweigh the cons in your case.

Pregnancy and Nursing

Celexa can be passed on from mother to child during pregnancy or while nursing. If you're trying to become pregnant, already pregnant, or breastfeeding, talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of taking Celexa.

Black Box Warning

The FDA released a black box warning in 2007 cautioning that the use of SSRIs may lead to increased suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The FDA warned that this problem can be especially problematic for adolescents and young adults who are on SSRIs.

Doctors who prescribe SSRIs, including Celexa, need to monitor for potential worsening of mood or thoughts of suicide, especially for young people just beginning their prescription or changing dosages.

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.

Alcohol Use

Alcohol consumption should be minimized while taking Celexa. The effects of alcohol may be intensified with Celexa and alcohol has the potential to interfere with its effectiveness.

Side Effects

It may take several weeks or longer for Celexa to be fully effective. During this time, you may experience side effects before you notice benefits. Most side effects of Celexa pass with time.


People taking Celexa may experience some side effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Drowsiness and lightheadedness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Increased sweating
  • Sexual side effects

If these side effects are troublesome or do not go away, discuss them with your doctor. They may lower your dosage or change your medication.


Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following rare side effects:

  • Indicators of an allergic reaction (hives, rash, difficulty swallowing, restricted breathing, or swelling of the face, mouth, or tongue)
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Extreme nervousness and anxiety
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

Warnings and Interactions

It is possible to experience serious drug interactions while taking Celexa with other substances or medications. Make sure your prescribing doctor is up to date on all of your current prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.

The following medications can interact with Celexa:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): Celexa should not be taken with or within two weeks of taking an MAOI. These include Azilect (rasagiline), Emsam (selegiline), Marplan (isocarboxazid), Nardil (phenelzine), and Parnate (tranylcypromine). Taking Celexa with a MAOI can be fatal.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Taking Celexa may increase your risk of internal bleeding. This risk is even greater when you combine Celexa with over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) or anticoagulants like warfarin (Coumadin).
  • Other drugs that increase serotonin levels: Taking Celexa with other drugs that affect your serotonin levels may increase your risk of developing serotonin syndrome. Therefore, avoid over-the-counter supplements like St. John’s wort and tryptophan, and medicines like Lexapro (escitalopram) and Zoloft (sertraline).

If you want to stop taking Celexa, it's extremely important to consult with your doctor first. They will help you gradually reduce your dosage. If you stop taking Celexa abruptly, you may experience withdrawal-like symptoms, which can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Paresthesias (prickling, tingling sensation on the skin)

Celexa withdrawal symptoms can begin within three to six days of your last dose and last up to a month in some cases.

Forgetting a Dose

Take any missed dose of Celexa as soon as you remember, unless it's close to the time for your next dose. Never take a double dose; instead, skip the missed dose and take the next dose on your regular schedule.

A Word From Verywell

The information provided here is meant to be an overview of using Celexa for anxiety disorders. It doesn't cover all possible scenarios. Always consult your medical provider or pharmacist about any questions or concerns you may have about your Celexa prescription.

3 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.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Celexa label. Published January 11, 2019.

  2. Food and Drug Administration. Revisions to Product Labeling.

  3. Yuet WC, Derasari D, Sivoravong J, Mason D, Jann M. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor use and risk of gastrointestinal and intracranial bleeding. J Osteopath Med. 2019;119(2):102-111. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2019.016

By Katharina Star, PhD
Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness.