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Medically Approved

How long does it take for Lexapro to work?

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Does it work immediately?Effect durationSigns it's workingAlternatives
Lexapro may offer symptom relief within 2 weeks of consistent use, but individual response times vary. For moderate to severe symptoms of depression or anxiety, Lexapro may take over 6 weeks to work.
Medically reviewed by Alexandra Perez, PharmD, MBA, BCGP
Written by Rashida Ruwa, RN
Updated on

Lexapro is an antidepressant medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). You can also find it under the generic name escitalopram.

Lexapro belongs to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which block the reabsorption of serotonin in your brain, helping to regulate mood.

Your healthcare professional may also prescribe Lexapro off-label. This means using the medication for purposes other than the ones the FDA approved it for, such as social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Lexapro and escitalopram are available in tablet and liquid form for oral administration.

Need a refill for escitalopram oxalate (Lexapro)? You may be able to get an online prescription through Optum Perks in as little as 15 minutes with no video or appointment needed. Learn more here.

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Does Lexapro have an immediate effect?

Young man smiling and holding a cupcake experiencing Lexapro effects after a few weeks of treatment
Photography by FG Trade/Getty Images

Lexapro does not have an immediate effect. The medication typically takes 12 weeks of consistent use to reach its full therapeutic effect. 

However, the exact time frame for achieving symptom relief may vary depending on various factors. These include symptom severity, individual tolerance to the medication, complementary treatment approaches, and the condition being treated.

For the treatment of depression, Lexapro may take 6–8 weeks to work for symptoms like low motivation or sad mood. In the case of anxiety disorders, Lexapro may also take a few weeks to reduce symptoms effectively.

This doesn’t mean you won’t experience improvement as you start taking Lexapro. You may start noticing a gradual change within the first 2 weeks. You may need to wait longer to experience the full effects of the medication.

If you feel Lexapro isn’t working for you, consult your prescribing professional before discontinuing the medication.

How many hours does Lexapro’s effect last?

Lexapro’s immediate effects may last for around 24 hours. However, because the medication is often taken once daily, usually in the morning or evening, the effects are cumulative and can’t be calculated on a daily basis. Long-term use of Lexapro translates into an increased effect on your mood until brain chemicals are balanced.

Dosages and frequency may vary depending on the severity of your condition, your response to the medication, and any potential side effects.

Only a healthcare professional may tailor your treatment.

Lexapro and escitalopram have a half-life of approximately 2733 hours. “Half-life” refers to the time it takes for a medication in your blood to reduce by half. In other words, it describes how long it takes for the drug to leave your body naturally.

How do you know Lexapro is working?

Doctors assess the effectiveness of Lexapro by monitoring a person’s symptoms over time rather than after a single use. After several weeks of consistent use, you may notice:

  • Improved mood: Lexapro helps regulate mood by balancing serotonin levels in the brain. As treatment progresses, you may notice changes in mood and increased motivation.
  • Enhanced daily functioning: As Lexapro starts to take effect, you may find it easier to engage in daily activities, enjoy social interaction, and pursue hobbies or interests. 
  • Decreased anxiety or worry: Lexapro significantly reduces the frequency or intensity of anxiety symptoms, such as racing thoughts, restlessness, or physical sensations like heart palpitations and muscular tension.

Everybody is different, though. The effects of Lexapro on you may vary slightly from its effects on other people. In general, with time, you’ll know Lexapro is working if you find a degree of relief from some or all of your symptoms.

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Side effects of Lexapro

Lexapro and escitalopram have similar side effects, including:

  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • dry mouth
  • changes in sexual desire or function

These side effects are usually mild to moderate and mostly disappear within a few weeks of starting the medication as your body adjusts. 

While less common, other side effects are possible. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, rare side effects may include:

  • localized or generalized allergic reactions
  • severe restlessness or agitation
  • serotonin syndrome (a potentially life threatening condition)
  • suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • unusual bleeding or bruising

If you experience severe or concerning side effects, it is best to seek prompt medical attention.

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Alternatives to Lexapro

If Lexapro or escitalopram isn’t working for you or you’re considering alternative treatments, other medications may be available.

Only a healthcare professional may establish which other treatments are effective for your condition, symptoms, and other health needs.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

Alternative medications in the same drug class as Lexapro may include:

Despite all of these being SSRIs, these medications may have different dosing requirements, side effects, and efficacy.

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

SNRIs work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, causing an increase in these natural substances.

Healthcare professionals may prescribe these medications to treat anxiety and depression. 

Examples of SNRIs include:

SNRIs may be an alternative if you experience side effects with SSRIs or have specific symptoms that may benefit from serotonin and norepinephrine modulation.


Benzodiazepines enhance the effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which can help alleviate anxiety symptoms. However, they are generally prescribed for short-term use due to the potential for dependence and severe side effects. 

Examples of benzodiazepines include:

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The effectiveness of Lexapro varies from person to person. While some people may experience relief from depression and anxiety symptoms within 2 weeks, others may require more time. 

It’s essential to remain patient and consistent with your medication and remember to regularly communicate with a doctor to track progress and make necessary adjustments.

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