Lexapro, available under its generic name Escitalopram, is mainly an antidepressant in the SSRI or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor class. It is a prescription-only drug in most countries including the US. Most doctors prescribe the drug to treat major depressive disorders. However, there are some instances where patients use Lexapro for anxiety.
Escitalopram is a relatively new drug among SSRI antidepressants. Its research and development started in 1997 before the US government approved its distribution under the name Lexapro in 2002. The first authorized use of the drug was for the treatment of major depressive disorders. It was in 2003 that the FDA subsequently approved its use for generalized anxiety disorder.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a mental disorder that causes people to experience excessive fear or worry. It is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders in the world. It affects at least 44 million adults in the US alone. Sadly, only about a third of them get the proper treatment. (1)
Anxiety may be due to various factors such as the environment, stress, trauma, or genetics. Its severity can range anywhere from mild worry to disabling panic attacks. Multiple forms of it exist such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorders, and social anxiety disorders. It may also worsen through time if the patient disregards its symptoms.
If you experience the symptoms of anxiety, it is best that you immediately approach a psychologist for an evaluation. Doing so can help prevent it from worsening and developing to more severe mental disorders such as depression.
Can I Use Lexapro For Anxiety?
The Food and Drug Administration has approved Clonidine for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). However, some European countries and Australia have approved the use of Lexapro for treating other types of anxiety. These include social anxiety disorder (SAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and panic disorders both with and without agoraphobia.
A study on Escitalopram or Lexapro found that it can reduce the relapse of patients suffering from GAD. The 24-week study found that patients taking Lexapro had a significantly lower relapse rate of 20% compared to those receiving a placebo. The placebo group exhibited a high relapse rate of 50%. (2)
Taking any drug for its off-label uses can be dangerous if done without supervision. It may result in various side effects that can cause more harm than good. The FDA has likewise contraindicated Lexapro for some people. Make sure to first consult a medical expert before taking Lexapro for anxiety.
Other Uses Of Lexapro
Studies have shown that Lexapro can help reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. This benefit was present whether the patients took the drug during their luteal phase or continuously. However, using the Lexapro for such purpose may result in some adverse effects such as nausea and asthenia. The occurrence of its side effects is highly dose-dependent. Hence, make sure to consult a physician before taking Lexapro to treat PMS. (3)
Although there are claims that Lexapro may help in reducing the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, not enough evidence has been gathered to support them. The same problem goes with the use of Lexapro for migraines and tension headaches.