Taking Celexa for Anxiety Disorders

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If you've been diagnosed with panic disorder, your doctor may have prescribed an antidepressant medication such as Celexa (citalopram) to treat the condition and help you on your path to recovery. 

What Is Citalopram?

Citalopram is an antidepressant medication that is often prescribed to treat both mood and anxiety disorders. Celexa is a common brand name of citalopram, which belongs to a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

SSRIs first came on the market for U.S. consumers in the 1980s and have grown in popularity ever since. Learn more about how Celexa interacts with the body, possible side effects, dosage, and more.

How Celexa Works 

Celexa balances your level of serotonin, a naturally occurring chemical substance or neurotransmitter in the brain. Serotonin is responsible for regulating sleep, mood, and other functions. Research has shown that imbalanced brain chemicals can contribute to mood and anxiety disorders, but the exact cause of panic disorder remains unknown.

An SSRI like Celexa can assist in balancing serotonin by preventing the nerve cells in the brain from absorbing it. By reducing the rate at which serotonin is reabsorbed, Celexa changes the brain chemistry, improving mood and reducing feelings of anxiety.

Celexa can assist in decreasing the severity of panic attacks and other panic disorder symptoms. Plus, Celexa can also reduce symptoms of common co-occurring conditions, such as depression.

Common Side Effects of Celexa

People taking Celexa may experience some side effects, including:

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

Many of the side effects of Celexa subside or become more manageable over time. As with any medication, there's a risk of having an allergic drug reaction to Celexa.

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.

Rare Side Effects

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


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.

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 continue to follow your schedule of dosage times.

Stopping Medication

If you decide that you want to stop taking Celexa, your doctor can assist you in gradually reducing your dosage. Never abruptly stop taking your prescription.

Suddenly discontinuing Celexa on your own can lead to some serious side effects and withdrawal-like symptoms, such as increased anxiety and irritability, headaches, confusion, and lightheadedness.

Celexa Precautions

There are several precautions and contraindications to consider when taking Celexa.

Black Box Warning

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a black box warning in 2007 cautioning that the usage 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.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 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 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.

Pregnancy and Nursing

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

Lightheadedness, Dizziness, and Drowsiness

Celexa can cause feelings of lightheadedness, dizziness, and drowsiness. When you're first getting used to the effects of Celexa, be cautious while driving or performing any other duties that require your full alertness and concentration.

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Article Sources
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  1. Neumann ID, Landgraf R. Balance of brain oxytocin and vasopressin: implications for anxiety, depression, and social behaviors. Trends Neurosci. 2012;35(11):649-59. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2012.08.004

  2. Food and Drug Administration. Celexa label.

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

Additional Reading
  • Silverman HM. The Pill Book. 14th ed. Bantam Books; 2011.