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Celexa (Citalopram) Withdrawal Symptoms, Side-Effects, Treatment Help

We are a specialized center, specifically treating Celexa withdrawal.

Side effects from Celexa (citalopram) withdrawal, even after ridiculously large amounts of evidence regarding withdrawal complications, still tend to be largely misunderstood by average prescribers.

Do you feel misunderstood?
You are not alone.

tapering off celexa
Alternative to Meds has been an antidepressant withdrawal help authority for over 15 years. We have published evidence regarding our success. Even with people with what might be considered the most outlandish symptoms, these same symptoms are much more common than what is being admitted to. Not only do we specialize in these symptoms, but many of us have also had to endure them ourselves in order to become the teachers that we are.
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Celexa side effects, Celexa withdrawal, and Celexa dependence can be better understood and managed within the greater context of understanding how taking Celexa and how stopping Celexa can affect the body and how Celexa can alter brain chemistry.

Why are medications like Celexa called SSRI medication?

Celexa is an SSRI medication. SSRI means selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor. Celexa is called an SSRI antidepressant because it interrupts the normal transmission of serotonin, an inhibitory natural chemical. This Interruption was designed to create a build-up of serotonin which pools in the nerve synapses. Eventually, these blocked neurotransmitters will degrade, which eventually results in a serotonin deficit and worsened symptoms.

Very often this type of serotonin-targeting antidepressant has been prescribed without informing the patient what to expect. Serotonin is a naturally occurring neurochemical that produces a mood-altering effect on the CNS (central nervous system). Drug manufacturers promote the idea that SSRI drugs restore balance by raising the levels of serotonin. The proposed theory is that more serotonin in the system will help lift depression. There may be a grain of truth in this idea, though ultimately, such a statement could be considered at best incomplete, or even misleading.

How a drug works can be helpful to understand for those persons who are looking for Celexa withdrawal help, and who are exploring ways to come off Celexa safely without introducing major health risks. As described earlier, for a period of time after taking Celexa, serotonin becomes artificially suspended along the nerve pathway. Serotonin molecules remain blocked (cannot be re-absorbed) and this will have a temporary mood-altering effect, similar to the way a stimulant such as cocaine does. This temporary effect reverses as the serotonin degrades, which can lead to a worsening of depression and other undesirable side effects, likely accompanied by increased anxiety and emotional impulsivity. More specific information on Celexa withdrawal and important information on how to get off Celexa is discussed below in this article.

What do Celexa side effects feel like?

Initially, taking Celexa will begin to suspend (block) serotonin along the nerve channels, and this may produce a lift in tone or a degree of euphoria. These initial mood changes may be sudden or gradual, and in either case, are temporary. It is not that a drug can create more serotonin. The effects are attained by manipulating or altering the rate of absorption and metabolism of natural neurochemicals such as serotonin. This lift in mood is one side effect of Celexa.

All antidepressant drugs are more or less designed to lift depression in this way and can be effective for a time. However, other less positive side effects are commonly reported also. These commonly reported Celexa side effects are linked to the after-effects of this manipulation of natural neurochemistry. Subsequently, these emerging side effects can range from moderate to severe.

Celexa side effects include:

  • Suicidal thoughts, especially in persons under 25 years of age*
  • Depression that worsens
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Confusion, cognitive disruption, inability to focus attention
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Memory loss
  • Tiredness, drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Tachycardia (racing heartbeat)
  • Diarrhea, gas, cramps
  • Tingling or numbness 

*See FDA Label for more information on Celexa side effects.

What is Serotonin Syndrome?

While some people may not experience severe or negative Celexa side effects, when these do present they should be discussed with the primary caregiver so that precautions, such as a reduction of dose, or other medical intervention can be initiated. Some patients may experience unpredictable changes in mood and behavior while taking Celexa. Such Celexa side effects can include a mix of both mental and physical manifestations. These may include panic attacks, increased anxiety, impulsive or aggressive feelings. Also reported are negative emotional reactions such as irritability, hostility, agitation, or feeling like hurting oneself. Physical side effects of Celexa may present as physical hyperactivity, muscle weakness, and a particularly troubling sensation of restlessness known as akathisia, from the Greek root, “akathemi,” which means to be unable to sit down or sit still.

celexa withdrawalCelexa (citalopram) is also linked with some cases of what is called serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome is a complex set of reactions that may include seizures, motor control dysfunction, respiratory impairment, potentially fatal rise in body temperature, tremors, blood pressure fluctuations, etc., and must be treated immediately due to the life-threatening implications of this drug-induced condition. See further below for a more comprehensive list of serotonin syndrome signs to watch for.

Side effects of Celexa also link to the risk of upper gastrointestinal bleeding or abnormal bleeding in other areas of the body. These Celexa side effects are thought to be related to the adverse effects that Celexa can have on the coagulation of the blood.

Mania is another Celexa side effect of concern. In Celexa drug trials, mania occurred in .2% of 1073 patients taking Celexa and in 0% of those in the placebo group for the trial.

Over a very short period of time, Celexa addiction or dependence can begin to impair a person’s health and reduce the quality of life to a marked degree.

More Information on Serotonin Syndrome – Signs to Watch For:

One very troubling side effect of taking Celexa, as with any serotonin-targeted medication, is the risk of a build-up of too much serotonin. This excessive build-up of serotonin can result in “serotonin syndrome.” This is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical intervention. The remedy for this syndrome is, in part, to discontinue the medication but this must be done under strict monitoring and only in a medical facility that can provide immediate emergency treatment including the use of serotonin blockers, intravenous hydration, safe sedation, blood pressure stabilization, and other forms of life support that may be needed.

PLEASE NOTE:  Serotonin syndrome is the only condition where the immediate cessation of Celexa is indicated and it is vital to provide support in a medical setting. Please note that gradual cessation is indicated in virtually every other scenario for safe Celexa withdrawal.

Signs of serotonin syndrome must be watched for as these require immediate medical intervention.

Serotonin syndrome* symptoms include: 

  • Confusion
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Agitation
  • A rapid rise in body temperature
  • Fever
  • Hallucination/delirium
  • Diarrhea/cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Restlessness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Seizure
  • Coma
  • Blood pressure fluctuations.

*According to Mason et al.’s 2000 review of the subject, about 75% of serotonin syndrome cases happen within 24 hours of initiation or a change in dosage, or in overdose scenarios. 

Medical advice will be to immediately stop taking Celexa and along with proper medical intervention, monitoring, and support in place, many of these reactions will usually begin to gradually abate over a number of days. However, some of these symptoms may persist for quite some time, even after stopping Celexa. In these cases, a lengthier period of medical treatment and sometimes hospitalization may be indicated.

Getting Off Celexa (Citalopram):  What is the best way to taper Celexa?

A person may feel that Celexa addiction or dependence has begun to set in and that it would be best to stop taking Celexa before the situation worsens. It could be that the severity of Celexa side effects has become more problematic than was anticipated or desired. There can be many reasons to consider Celexa withdrawal treatment. Once the decision of stopping Celexa has been initiated, a person is likely to experience a new set of symptoms which are collectively referred to as Celexa withdrawal symptoms. A list of the most common withdrawal symptoms is given below under the heading “Celexa Withdrawal Symptoms.”

Unfortunately, if adequate preparations have not been put in place, and perhaps where a person has not been informed about how to get off Celexa, these Celexa withdrawal symptoms may be severe enough to significantly overwhelm a person, perhaps causing them to give up and resume their Celexa prescription. The person may feel that their Celexa addiction or dependence has become unmanageable without some form of Celexa withdrawal help. Celexa withdrawal treatment is absolutely necessary in many cases to assist a person to wean off Celexa properly so they can achieve a full and successful recovery of physical and mental health.

With adequate preparation, including comprehensive guidance as to what to expect, one can be provided methods within a scheduled timeline. These actions can successfully mitigate and soften the symptoms of Celexa withdrawals. it is possible for a person to experience a surprisingly mild withdrawal from Celexa and other antidepressant drugs with careful oversight and planning.

WARNING:  The FDA and other regulatory bodies warn against suddenly stopping Celexa or any antidepressant medication, due to the tremendous shock this can inflict on the body. What is recommended wherever possible is a gradual reduction as opposed to sudden cessation, or trying to quit Celexa “cold turkey.”

Celexa Addiction

Medical opinions and literature vary quite a bit on how addiction is defined, so a definitive answer is not clear. However, in a New Zealand study, about 27% of the group that was involved in the study felt they were either severely addicted, moderately addicted, or had a mild addiction to Celexa or similar medications. Whether it is referred to as Celexa addiction or dependence, those are quite significant numbers and cannot be discounted.6 In the US, NBC News reported one in six Americans are taking antidepressants, and a study found that 60% of those on antidepressants continue taking them for more than 2 years.7 In the UK, it was reported in the British Medical Journal in 2018 that 12% of the British population was taking antidepressant medications and that the number of antidepressant prescriptions rose from 30 million in 2008 to 71 million in 2018.

Clearly, Celexa addiction and addiction to other antidepressant drugs is a growing concern all over the world, and these soaring numbers show no sign of reversing. Many persons taking antidepressants as cited earlier, continue to take them because they feel the withdrawals are too severe to manage.

What do Celexa withdrawal symptoms feel like?

A person taking Celexa may find the unwanted side effects of the drug overshadow any perceived benefits of continuing to take the medication. In this case, a decision may be made to stop taking Celexa. Except in the case of serotonin syndrome, a person should never stop taking Celexa all at once or “cold turkey.” To do so may introduce an overwhelming shock to the body, and may cause symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization.

With proper guidance and preparation steps for tapering Celexa safely, a person does not have to suffer unnecessarily harsh and lingering symptoms of Celexa withdrawal. Without preparation and guidance for navigating a gradual taper, Celexa withdrawals can be moderate to severe.  

Celexa Withdrawal Symptoms include: 

  • Suicidality
  • Deep depression
  • Dizziness
  • Aggressive and irritable mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Appetite impaired
  • Hostility
  • Sensory disturbances, hallucinations of sound, sight, touch, taste, etc. 
  • Brain zaps, electrical shock sensations in the head and neck and or spine*
  • Emotional lability, i.e., crying spells, rage, uncontrollable laughing or crying, intensely magnified emotions, reactions, etc.
  • Dysphoria, a profound sense of unease, unhappiness, dissatisfaction with life
  • Physical aches, pains, cramps, tingling or other unwanted physical sensations
  • Sleep impairment, insomnia
  • Loss of interest in usual socializing, hobbies, life in general.

*The FDA label (page 34) for Celexa warns that electric-shock-like sensations may result if the drug is withdrawn too quickly. 

getting off celexa
“Over a lengthy course of 8 years, I was taking several different prescription drugs, including Lorazepam, Zoloft, Celexa (Citalopram), Effexor, and Paxil, but finally, they were no longer working for me. I went with my husband to Alternative to Meds Center Where it was found that I had low Serotonin and heavy metal toxicity. After five weeks of being there, I’m feeling much, much better and I am off all the medications.”

Click here to know more about Celexa Alternatives

Celexa (Citalopram) FAQs

Questions relating to Celexa or citalopram are best directed to one’s prescribing physician, as patient history and health matters can differ greatly from one person to another. However, here are some of the most common questions that arise. It is always safest to seek medical advice from your primary caregiver whenever possible.

What is Celexa (citalopram) used for?

Celexa (citalopram) is most often prescribed to lift depression, increase energy, and enhance feelings of well-being. It is also given to patients suffering from a surprising number of other conditions, which is termed “off label” prescribing. These can include such widely ranging conditions as:

  • Premenstrual dysphoric syndrome (PMDD)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Panic Disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Numerous other sets of unwanted symptoms

Are there patients who should avoid Celexa?

Yes. Celexa is NOT recommended for patients suffering from heart conditions such as long QT syndrome, slow heartbeat, irregular heartbeat, or for patients with magnesium deficiency, potassium deficiency, high blood pressure, patients at risk of or with a history of stroke, kidney disease, or liver disease.

Are there alternate names for Celexa (citalopram) around the world?

Yes citalopram (the generic name) is sold under many different brand names in different countries, including:

  • Celexa in Canada and the US
  • Humorup in Argentina
  • Szetalo/Zetalo in India
  • Estar in Pakistan
  • Elopram in Italy
  • Citalex in Iran/Turkey
  • Citalo in Egypt

Celexa should not be confused with other similar-sounding drug names, or “look-alike” names, like Celebrex, Xanax, or Lexapro. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices, (ISMP) recommends that a prescription label show both a drug’s brand name and the generic name, and also the purpose for the drug so as to reduce the risk of harm or accidental injury.2, 3

Can I drink alcohol while taking Celexa?

Citalopram magnifies the effects of alcohol, and alcohol can conversely augment or alter the effects of medications. This can produce a host of negative effects, such as cognitive impairment, lack of clarity in perception, and impaired motor and muscle control. Therefore, driving a vehicle or operating heavy machinery while under the influence of alcohol is not recommended and this would be underscored if both alcohol AND Celexa were to be taken simultaneously. Because of their synergistic effects, there is a very real risk of overdose if too much alcohol is consumed while taking any SSRI medication. Overdose can result in respiratory shutdown, coma, and death. Therefore, it is safest to avoid mixing alcohol and Celexa. If you are not certain you can abstain from alcohol, seek medical advice from your primary health caregiver.5

Can Celexa cause weight loss or weight gain?

Yes, reports are clear that Celexa is linked to both weight loss and weight gain. Appetite can be suppressed in some persons resulting in weight loss. However, in other cases, Celexa results in increased appetite which can lead to weight gain. Some persons taking Celexa report no such effects on weight.

Is Celexa a benzodiazepine?

No. Celexa is an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) type of antidepressant medication. Celexa targets serotonin, an inhibitory transmitter, and largely ignores other neurotransmitters such as dopamine or GABA. Benzodiazepine drugs primarily target and affect the inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA, which is what results in the tranquilizing effects of the benzodiazepine class of drugs. Celexa is primarily targeting serotonin. Though the side effects of these two types of drugs may be similar. how they are thought to work is considered dissimilar.  

Can Citalopram cause anxiety?

Yes, serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may increase anxiety symptoms, especially in early treatment phases. The study “A Single Dose of the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Citalopram Exacerbates Anxiety in Humans: A Fear-Potentiated Startle Study” 4 explored the idea that anxiety increased due to fear or anxiety about taking the drug, rather than anxiety being caused by the drug itself. However, the result of the study concluded that citalopram itself does exacerbate baseline anxiety levels, and therefore can cause or worsen anxiety in some individuals in early treatment.

Can Celexa cause suicidal thinking?

Yes, according to the required FDA black box packaging label. The average risk of adverse events representing suicidal thinking or behavior (suicidality) during the first few months of treatment on Celexa and a host of other antidepressant drugs was double that of placebo in drug trials. Long-term use of the drug was not tested in any extended drug trials, so it is not known whether this risk increases over time.1

What is the best way to taper Celexa?

At the Alternative to Meds Center, we use holistic measures to ensure the client weans off Celexa safely and comfortably. The whole process is overseen step by step in a fully-staffed in-patient setting. Clients are carefully monitored by a team of dedicated specialists, including physicians, addiction therapists, and a wide array of holistic practitioners to enable a thorough, gentle, and health-restoring result.

Where can I get information on stopping Celexa safely?

We can provide much more detailed information on request concerning all of the techniques and therapies used in our program at the Alternative to Meds Center. Find out how each program component plays a significant role in the entire process. Our program is dedicated to helping you regain natural mental health using effective treatments for gentle and comfortable Celexa withdrawal so you can live life well, without the need to continue taking prescription medications.

1. FDA drug info Citalopram [accessed 2019 Jul 24]

2. Grillon C, Levenson J, Pine DS “Increased anxiety during anticipation of unpredictable aversive stimuli in posttraumatic stress disorder but not in generalized anxiety disorder” NCBI [INTERNET] 2009 Feb 12 [accessed 2019 Jul 24]

3. Beston A “New research on antidepressant addiction and withdrawal” University of Auckland, Medical Express 2018 Jun 6 [accessed 2019 Jul 24]

4. Fox M “One in 6 Americans Take Antidepressants, Other Psychiatric Drugs: Study” NBC News, 2016 Dec 12 [accessed 2019 Jul 24]

5. NHS UK  Patient Information “Citalopram: an antidepressant.” [Internet] 2018 Dec 18 [cited 2020 Sep 23]

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. John Motl, M.D.

Dr. Motl is currently certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry, and Board eligible in Neurology and licensed in the state of Arizona.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated from Creighton University School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine.  Dr. Motl has studied Medical Acupuncture at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine and at U.C.L.A.

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