Escitalopram Review: Depression and Anxiety Relief in One?

Escitalopram Review: Depression and Anxiety Relief in One?

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Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice. All statements are merely the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to prescription medication.

Escitalopram, also called escitalopram oxalate, is a prescription antidepressant medication, and is a member of a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).

But is escitalopram proven to be effective for depression? What about anxiety? Does it cause side effects? And is the branded version more effective?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we analyze clinical trials on escitalopram to determine if it's safe and effective for treating anxiety and depression.

We'll also discuss the potential for side effects, feature real patient reviews, and share our thoughts on whether or not the branded version (Lexapro) is superior.

Does Escitalopram Relieve Depression?

Escitalopram has been studied in numerous clinical trials for its ability to treat major depressive disorder (MDD), as we documented in our Lexapro reviews for depression article.

A 2010 meta-study on escitalopram analyzed results from 18 clinical trials, and concluded that it was an “effective and generally well tolerated treatment” for depression.

Another medical review on escitalopram, published in the Current Medical Research and Opinion journal, found that the medication was superior to other antidepressants.

Escitalopram was found in this review to be more effective than other SSRI medications, with an average treatment rate of 62.1% versus 58.4% for the average SSRI.

Escitalopram was also more effective than serotonin/noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which is another class of antidepressant.

We will conclude that escitalopram is effective for treating depression, which is unsurprising given that the drug is approved for this indication by the FDA. 

The studies we reviewed suggest that escitalopram may be more effective than other antidepressants.

YouTuber Tries Escitalopram

A YouTube creator named Hannah Cheung shared her experience taking escitalopram for a month in a video with over 100,000 views:

Does Escitalopram Relieve Anxiety?

Escitalopram is also approved by the FDA to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

A meta-study on escitalopram found that the drug was effective for both short-term and long-term treatment of generalized anxiety.

A clinical trial examined whether escitalopram could be effective for treating panic disorder, which tends to be more severe and harder to treat than GAD.

366 patients with panic disorder received either escitalopram, another prescription anxiety medication called Celexa, or placebo pills, and their symptoms of panic disorder were tracked over the course of the 10 week trial.

Escitalopram worked significantly better than placebo pills, and increased the number of patients who experienced zero panic attacks.

Another significant finding was that fewer patients had to discontinue the trial on escitalopram than on placebo, which suggests that the drug causes no significant side effects in patients with panic disorder.

We will conclude from the available research that escitalopram is effective for treating generalized anxiety, and may be effective for treating panic disorder.

Does Escitalopram Cause Side Effects?

Escitalopram has an established side effect profile that patients should be aware of.

A medical review of the drug noted that the most common side effects were: insomnia, ejaculation disorder, nausea, increased sweating, fatigue and sleepiness.

One patient out of 125 taking escitalopram developed suicidal thoughts, and 6 patients out of 544 (slightly over 1%) attempted suicide.

The FDA requires a black box warning to be listed on escitalopram’s label, indicating that the drug may increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior. Black box warnings are the most severe level of warning issued by the FDA, and indicate side effects that may be life-threatening.

We definitely would recommend that patients speak with their doctor about the potentially increased suicide risk before taking this medication.

If the patient has a personal or family history of suicidal thoughts, their doctor may recommend an antidepressant without this potential side effect.

It’s notable that in the above-linked review of escitalopram side effects, patients taking 20 milligrams (mg) of the drug were more likely (10% vs. 4%) to drop out of the trial due to side effects than patients taking 10 mg.

This suggests that it may be worthwhile for patients with mild-to-moderate depression to speak with their doctor about starting on a 10 mg rather than 20 mg dose to minimize the risk of side effects.

Patients Rate Escitalopram is a website that allows patients on prescription medication to rate and review the drugs they're taking.

We cannot verify the accuracy or authenticity of any reviews on this site.

Escitalopram has been reviewed over 3,000 times on at the time of updating this article.

Patients taking escitalopram for anxiety rated the drug higher than users taking it for depression (7.4/10 vs. 7.2/10).

A top positive review of escitalopram for anxiety is written by a user named “osky” who gave the drug a 10/10 rating:

“In my darkest hours whilst waiting for the drug to kick in I would read all the positive reviews on this website and they gave me confidence that everything would be OK. Without you, I don't know what I would have done. A couple of years later and my life is on track and the future is looking rosy!”

A top negative review of escitalopram for anxiety comes from a user named “Timbo323” who gave the drug a 1/10 rating:

“Hi, I’ve been on 10mg of [escitalopram] for 3+ weeks and still having side effects or anxiety attacks. Shaking hands, burning feet and mouth. Seems to get worse 2 hoiurs after I take a dose.”

Is the Branded Version Safer?

As we referenced previously, the brand name version of escitalopram is Lexapro.

Generally, we recommend that patients speak with their doctor about the generic version of drugs instead of the branded version, as generics are generally as effective but have a much lower retail price. 

However, a medical review comparing generic and brand-name drugs found that Lexapro was associated with fewer psychiatric hospitalizations when compared to generic escitalopram. 

The above-linked review documents how generics are as effective as branded drugs on average, but in some cases they are not.

It’s unclear what causes the association of fewer hospitalizations with Lexapro compared to escitalopram.

Can You Drink on Escitalopram?

According to the FDA label for escitalopram which we linked to previously in this article, it’s recommended to avoid alcohol use while taking the medication.

This is common for SSRI drugs.

Alcohol use while taking escitalopram may cause negative health effects, and may also cause short-term cognitive and motor effects which make regular tasks such as driving unsafe.

Due to this contraindication, we believe it’s important for patients to be honest with their doctor about their alcohol intake.

Escitalopram may not be the best choice for a patient who is unwilling or unable to refrain from alcohol intake entirely, and in those cases their doctor may be able to prescribe a different antidepressant which doesn’t have a negative interaction with alcohol.

How Does Escitalopram Work?

We believe it’s important for patients to understand how their medications work, so that they may notice patterns in which type of medications are most effective for them.

Escitalopram is an SSRI drug, which means that it limits re-uptake of serotonin. This neurotransmitter influences mood and sedation.

Limiting reuptake of serotonin artificially increases its levels in the brain, which can have a beneficial effect in depressed patients.

Scientists are still unclear on exactly how and why SSRIs are effective, but the leading theory is that patients with mental health conditions may have lower circulating levels of serotonin than those without depression or anxiety.

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Escitalopram vs. Citalopram 

Citalopram is another commonly-prescribed antidepressant, so patients are often curious about which drug is more effective.

The two drugs have been directly compared in clinical research studies.

A 2014 medical review examined the effectiveness of citalopram versus other leading antidepressants. Citalopram was shown to be "significantly less effective than escitalopram."

Since the drugs have a similar safety profile (both have a black box warning on their label), we would recommend that patients speak with their doctor about escitalopram rather than citalopram.

Escitalopram Dosage

According to a 2023 medical review, the typical dosing range of escitalopram is 10 mg to 30 mg per day.

The above-linked review lists the typical starting dose as 10 mg.

Doctors will often start patients on the minimum effective dose of a drug, because if this dose is effective it will reduce the risk of side effects compared with higher doses.

If the patient is unresponsive at the lower dose, the doctor may slowly increase their dose up to the maximum effective dose.

Elderly patients cannot process escitalopram as well as healthy younger adults, so the dosage recommendation in geriatric patients is 10 mg.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews


Escitalopram can treat both depression and anxiety, and is one of the few FDA-approved medications for both conditions.

The branded version of escitalopram, called Lexapro, is associated with fewer psychiatric hospitalizations and may be safer, at least based on the results from one meta-study.

This is uncommon, as typically generic and branded drugs are clinically equivalent, but in this case we’d recommend that patients speak with their doctor about Lexapro instead of generic escitalopram.

Escitalopram does have a somewhat concerning side effect profile, including the potential for increased suicide risk.

The drug also has a negative interaction with alcohol and thus may not be advisable for moderate or heavy drinkers.

Escitalopram appears to be significantly more effective than another generic antidepressant called citalopram based on clinical research.