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What is Celexa (citalopram)?

Celexa, a branded version of citalopram, is a prescription medication used to treat depression. It belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Celexa works by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain,¹ a chemical that is thought to play a role in mood regulation.

What is Celexa used to treat?

People take Celexa to treat major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders. It can also be used to treat other mental health conditions, such as:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Panic disorder

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

How do you take Celexa?

You can take Celexa with or without food. Your body will absorb the drug more slowly if you take it with food.

Taking Celexa at the same time each day may help you avoid missing a dose.

The usual starting dose is 20mg per day². Your doctor may increase your dose to 40mg per day if it would treat your condition more effectively.

Seeing results

You should start to feel better within a few weeks of taking Celexa, but it may take up to six weeks for you to experience the full effects.

If you still have symptoms after six weeks of treatment, talk to your doctor about increasing your dose or changing your medication.

Keep taking Celexa even if you start feeling better. Don’t stop taking the medication unless your doctor tells you to. Stopping treatment too soon might cause your symptoms to return.

Potential side effects of Celexa

Commonly reported Celexa side effects include:

Celexa can also cause more severe side effects, including:

  • Serotonin syndrome: A rare, but potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when there is too much serotonin in the body. Symptoms include fever, sweating, agitation, confusion, seizures, and coma.

  • Suicidal thoughts or actions: Antidepressants can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in people who have depression or other mental illnesses. Your doctor will monitor you closely to detect any changes in your mood or behavior.

Speak to your doctor if you experience any side effects when taking Celexa. The drug is not suitable for everyone, but your doctor can give you advice and help you consider the potential risks and benefits.

Long-term use of Celexa

Celexa is prescribed for long-term use in some cases.

Taking Celexa for a long time may cause side effects, such as weight gain, dry mouth, and sexual problems. It is essential to discuss any potential long-term side effects with your doctor before continuing Celexa therapy.

Missed doses

If you forget to take a dose of Celexa, take it as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular schedule. Do not take two doses at the same time.


Celexa, like other antidepressants, carries a risk of overdose. A Celexa overdose will cause mild nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in most cases, but it can be fatal.

If you or someone you know has overdosed on Celexa, seek medical attention immediately.

Celexa may be habit-forming. Do not take more than what your doctor has prescribed. Keep track of how many pills have been used from each new medication bottle.

What to discuss with your doctor before taking Celexa

Before taking Celexa, speak to your doctor about any past or existing medical conditions and any drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take or plan to start taking.

The following medical conditions can be affected when you take Celexa, so the medication might not be suitable for you:

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while taking Celexa.

You should not take Celexa if you have taken a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) in the last 14 days, such as:

  • Isocarboxazid (Marplan)

  • Linezolid (Zyvox)

  • Phenelzine (Nardil)

  • Rasagiline (Azilect)

  • Selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam, or Zelapar)

  • Tranylcypromine (Parnate)

Life-threatening side effects can occur if you take Celexa before the MAOI has cleared from your body.

You should also not take Celexa if you take pimozide (Orap).

Stopping Celexa

You should always speak to your doctor before stopping any medication as you may need to stop taking it in a specific way to prevent withdrawal side effects, including:

  • Feeling anxious or agitated

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Sweating

  • Hot flushes

  • Trouble sleeping

Contact your doctor right away if you develop any of these side effects when you stop taking Celexa. They may need to adjust their dose and taper off the medication slowly to avoid withdrawal effects.

Celexa and pregnancy

Celexa can be prescribed to treat depression during pregnancy, but you should consider the pros and cons with your doctor.

Research suggests that some birth defects are up to two or three times more likely³ to occur when the mother takes SSRIs during early pregnancy. However, much of the evidence on this topic is conflicting.

Maternal weight fluctuations and preterm delivery are other possible side effects.

Allergy information

Celexa may cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms can include:

  • Skin rash

  • Hives

  • Itching

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat

Call your doctor right away or get emergency medical help if you have any of these symptoms.

Don’t take this drug if you are allergic to it or any of its ingredients.

Clinical trial history

Celexa significantly improved depression symptoms in two four to six-week clinical trials⁴ compared to placebo. The study participants were adults aged 18–66 with major depressive disorder.

In the first six-week trial, participants were given Celexa in daily doses of 10mg, 20mg, 40mg, and 60mg. The 40mg and 60mg daily doses were most effective in reducing depression symptoms. Researchers found that 10mg and 20mg daily doses were significantly less effective. However, 40mg was recommended as the maximum safe daily dosage.

The second trial was a four-week, placebo-controlled trial. Participants were given an initial daily dose of 20mg, increased to a maximum daily dose of 80mg (double the maximum recommended daily dosage). Symptoms improved more for participants treated with Celexa than those given a placebo.

Tips and advice for taking Celexa

You must be aware of the possible side effects before taking Celexa. Some of the most common side effects include nausea, diarrhea, insomnia, and weight gain. It is also essential to be aware that Celexa can cause drowsiness and impair your ability to operate a vehicle or machinery.

Your doctor will likely start you off with a low dose and gradually increase the dose until they find what works best for you.

Keep in mind that Celexa may not be effective for everyone, and it may take some time before you see any results. Don’t stop taking the medication unless your doctor recommends it.

Curious about clinical trials?

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Here at HealthMatch, we’ve done our best to ensure that the information provided in this article is helpful, up to date, and, most importantly, accurate.

However, we can’t replace the one-to-one advice of a qualified medical practitioner or outline all of the possible risks associated with this particular drug and your circumstances.

It is therefore important for you to note that the information contained in this article does not constitute professional medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or recommendation of treatment and is not intended to, nor should be used to, replace professional medical advice. This article may not always be up to date and is not exhaustive of all of the risks and considerations relevant to this particular drug. In no circumstances should this article be relied upon without independent consideration and confirmation by a qualified medical practitioner.

Your doctor will be able to explain all possible uses, dosages, precautions, interactions with other drugs, and other potential adverse effects, and you should always talk to them about any kind of medication you are taking, thinking about taking or wanting to stop taking.

Curious about clinical trials?

Access the latest treatments and medications. unavailable elsewhere - entirely free of charge. We make it easy to take part.