Cipralex: my drug of choice for anxiety & depression


As I mentioned in my “Anxiety and Depression” page, I wasn’t diagnosed with anxiety and depression until a few years ago, however, the clues were all there for a very, very long time. If children can be depressed, I have a feeling I was one of them. I can trace my depression back to probably around 9 or 10 years old when I had begun to go through puberty. Unfortunately, I didn’t know at the time that that was the reason I was feeling down and anxious, nor did my parents. It wasn’t until high school that a school counsellor (who was also a family friend) met with me and told me I really needed treatment for my depression. Because depression and anxiety were very stigmatized back in the 1990’s and 2000’s, no part of me wanted to go on an antidepressant, so I refused. My first time being diagnosed antidepressants was in my mid-20s, when I finally realized I needed a significant amount of help for my anxiety and depression, and there wasn’t anything more I could do to help myself. I was on 2-3 different medications before I found the one that worked for me, which was cipralex, at a 20mg dosage once per day in the mornings (if I took it at night it kept me awake).

Fast forward to today, and I am still on cipralex 20 mg. This drug has been one of four treatments that I have found really helps keep my anxiety and depression at bay. The other three are in no specific order, diet, yoga and talk therapy (and I will go over these other treatments in future posts).

Normally, antidepressants take patients weeks to see the benefits (if any) of the drug, and for me, I noticed a difference within hours – it was as if this big, dark cloud had been lifted off of my brain, and I could finally think clearly, and didn’t feel so downhearted and depressed, or anxious. If I were to rate my anxiety and depression today, versus before I was on this medication, I would say my depression was moderate, about a 7/10, and my anxiety was probably an 8 or 9/10. I now feel as though my depression is at a 3, and my anxiety and a 4 – these are MAJOR improvements! I sometimes catch myself thinking “what if I had been prescribed this drug in high school, life would have been significantly easier”, but I then tell myself “at least I am on the right treatment NOW, and that’s all that matters!”

Before I discuss the drug in more detail, I want to state that I believe there are medications that are needed for treatment, however, I also believe these need to be taken with other treatments as well. So for anxiety and depression, no drug can cure this problem – depending on the person, they may also require weeks to years of talk therapy, daily light to moderate exercise, meditation and yoga, as well as slight or complete changes to diet. I truly believe that Western and Eastern medicine can work together to help treat certain illnesses.

So, what exactly is cipralex and why is it such a great drug of choice for the treatment of anxiety and depression in patients?

How does Cipralex work? What will it do for me?

Escitalopram (cipralex) belongs to the group of medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It is used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It works by increasing levels of a neurotransmitter called serotonin in the brain. Increased serotonin levels can lead to an improved mood.

The medication usually begins to work within 2 to 4 weeks. However, it may take several weeks of treatment before the full effects are seen.

How should I use Cipralex?

The recommended dose is usually started at 10 mg daily, preferably at the same time each day. Escitalopram should be taken once daily in the morning or evening, with or without food. The dose can be increased by your doctor as needed to a maximum of 20 mg daily. For seniors, people with liver problems, and people taking the medications omeprazole or cimetidine, the maximum recommended daily dose is 10 mg. In some cases, the doctor may recommend a 5 mg starting dose.

Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications.

 What side effects are possible with Cipralex?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

  • changes in heart rate
  • congested or runny nose
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • difficulty sleeping
  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • heartburn
  • increased sweating
  • insomnia
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • sexual dysfunction including:
    • decreased libido (sex drive)
    • erectile dysfunction
    • inability to have an orgasm
  • stomach upset
  • yawning

The following are symptoms that could potentially happen:

  • bruising or unusual bleeding from the skin or other areas
  • difficulty controlling blood sugar levels
  • hallucinations
  • inability to urinate
  • involuntary movements of the body or face
  • low blood sodium (confusion, seizures, drowsiness, dryness of mouth, increased thirst, lack of energy)
  • severe agitation or restlessness
  • symptoms of glaucoma, e.g.:
    • increased pressure in the eye
    • eye pain
    • blurred vision
  • symptoms of liver damage, e.g.:
  • abdominal pain
  • dark urine
  • clay-coloured stools
  • itching
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • yellow skin or eyes

Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • seizure or convulsions
  • serotonin syndrome or neuroleptic malignant syndrome – signs include:
    • agitation
    • confusion
    • diarrhea
    • fever
    • overactive reflexes
    • poor coordination
    • restlessness
    • shivering
    • sweating
    • talking or acting with excitement you cannot control
    • trembling or shaking
    • twitching
  • symptoms of an abnormal rhythm such as heart palpitations, dizziness, or fainting
  • symptoms of a serious allergic reaction such as swelling of the face or throat, hives, or difficulty breathing
  • thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself
  • vomiting blood or presence of blood in the stool

I would rank this medication as an 8/10, because it helped my depression and anxiety right away, continues to, doesn’t affect my sleep, and doesn’t cause any severe side effects for me. Unfortunately, of the side effects listed above, I do have issues with my libido, however, I have noticed this issue on other antidepressants as well. As you can imagine, this type of side effect is not pleasant and does impact your life significantly. However, my thought process is the following: at least I’m not feeling unmotivated, irritable, sad, anxious or feeling like a heavy weight is on my head and shoulders. You do what you gotta do right? And luckily, again, I’m so lucky that my fiancé is supportive and understands this about me. I will go into more detail around the topic of sex when living with anxiety, depression, and chronic pain in a future post.

If you want to check out reviews of this medication, navigate to the following links:

Cipralex for anxiety (The average review on drugs.com is an 8.1/10) – http://www.drugs.com/comments/escitalopram/for-anxiety.html

One patient’s account:

“On my fourth day now taking this and I feel so much better. The first 2 days were hell for me. Side effects just like everybody else says. I felt like I was dizzy, nauseous, and had diarrhea. It just made me feel strange. But by the third day I felt amazing. I still felt a little weird at first but the side effects wore off quickly and then and began to stop overthinking things so much. It’s almost as if I just started to feel at peace with everything like I was just laid back which is not how I ever was. No more of that chest pain or heavy breathing or sickening nervous feeling. Even my girlfriend could notice a difference in me as I was not so wound up about everything. just happy I can feel normal again”

Cipralex for depression (The average review is 7.8/10) – http://www.drugs.com/comments/escitalopram/for-depression.html

One patient’s account:

“While this is the first medication I’ve been on it has made an exceptional positive impact on my life. The side effects are first for me a really unpleasant but they’re totally worth working through because they did go away and it made everything in my life easier. My depression and anxiety are much better, sleeping better, eating better, motivation to get on with my life.”

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to continue taking this medication when we decide to get pregnant and have a family in a few years, as it has been shown to cause many birth defects and issues in babies. That being said, hopefully by that point I will be able to find a natural supplement instead of this drug, and also continue with yoga, proper nutrition, talk therapy, time with family and friends, etc. That is one drawback about this medication where I go from giving it an 8 to a 0, but most drugs probably are not safe during pregnancy anyways!

If you are on Cipralex for anxiety, depression and / or obsessive compulsive disorder, how has your experience been? Have you noticed any of the side effects listed above? Would you recommend this medication to others like myself?

Thanks for stopping by!

Xoxo Lex

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