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Lexapro vs. Zoloft

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If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you know there are a number of medications prescribed to treat those conditions, two of the most common being Lexapro and Zoloft. But what exactly are they, how do they work, and which might work best for your anxiety or depression symptoms? 

Whether it’s Zoloft, Lexapro, or another medication, your psychiatric healthcare provider will work with you to find the best drug to relieve your symptoms. 

If you want anxiety or depression treatment, Klarity is here for you. Book an appointment today, and within 48 hours, you’ll be able to meet with a licensed medical provider and get the help you need to feel better.

More About Lexapro and Zoloft

Both Lexapro and Zoloft are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which work by addressing the chemical imbalances in the brain that cause anxiety and depression symptoms. While they do share similarities, they also have several differences that can help determine who will get the most benefit from taking them.

What Is Lexapro?

Lexapro is an SSRI commonly prescribed to treat depression and anxiety. As an SSRI, Lexapro is a relatively safe medication, and most users experience few mild side effects. By balancing the serotonin levels in the brain, Lexapro is able to relieve the symptoms associated with depression and anxiety, as well as increase energy levels.

Lexapro Forms and Doses

Lexapro comes in its name-brand form, and it can also be prescribed as the generic escitalopram. The generic form still has all of the same properties, with the added benefit of typically being less expensive. They are both taken orally in the form of a tablet.

Lexapro comes in three different dosages, 5mg, 10mg, and 20mg. It is often taken once daily, but the exact dosage and frequency of administration may vary depending on your specific needs and your instructions from your healthcare provider. Lexapro can also be prescribed in a variety of quantities—30, 45, 60, 90, or 135 tablets.

Conditions Lexapro Treats

Lexapro is effective at treating symptoms of depression and anxiety, but it can also have some off-label uses, given how many mental conditions are caused by lowered serotonin. To understand the full range of Lexapro’s effectiveness, it’s worth evaluating how it can affect both anxiety and depression, as well as insomnia considering its prevalence in the lives of many people who suffer from anxiety and depression symptoms.

Anxiety

Most SSRIs are not meant to treat anxiety; however, Lexapro has proven to be particularly effective at reducing the severity of anxiety symptoms. While anxiety can be caused by various other neurotransmitter deficiencies, it is often a result of lowered serotonin levels, so an SSRI like Lexapro can help decrease a person’s persistent nervousness and tendency toward panic.

Depression

Lexapro’s serotonin-restoring ability is especially effective at treating depression, as the neurotransmitter is essential to regulating a person’s mood. Depression is marked by persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, so altering how the brain uses serotonin with Lexapro can help contribute to a greater sense of well-being.

Insomnia

While Lexapro is not typically used to treat insomnia, it has been shown to improve insomnia symptoms in certain groups. Perimenopausal and menopausal women have demonstrated improvements in the quality of their sleep after taking Lexapro, and although these effects are largely limited to this group, it can nevertheless be a valuable resource for women looking for insomnia relief during this time in their lives.

Lexapro Costs

Generic escitalopram is a relatively inexpensive medication, much like other SSRIs, often costing as little as $13 for 30 tablets of the 10mg dosage. 

Brand name Lexapro can be much more expensive, costing as much as $533 for the same dosage and quantity of medication. This makes it much more financially viable to opt for the generic form.

Most insurance plans are far more likely to cover escitalopram than Lexapro. Contact your insurance company to see which they more thoroughly cover.

Lexapro Side Effects

Like most depression and anxiety medications, Lexapro has its fair share of side effects. Some of the most common include:

  • Dizziness and drowsiness
  • Weakness, shakiness, or sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite or nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation 
  • Unexplained weight changes
  • Decreased sex drive or impotence
  • Difficulty with orgasms

The following side effects are less common but more serious. If you experience any of these side effects, contact your healthcare provider immediately: 

  • Abdominal pain or bleeding
  • Allergic reaction
  • Blurred or tunnel vision
  • Abnormal dreams or decreased focus
  • Chest pain or irregular heartbeat
  • Eye pain, swelling, or halos around lights
  • Euphoria, depression, or unusual behavior
  • Headache, confusion, or slurred speech
  • Heartburn or vomiting
  • Hot flashes
  • Severe weakness or dizziness
  • Feeling unsteady or uncoordinated
  • Sweating and tremors
  • Rigid muscles 

Lexapro Warnings for Use

Individuals with certain conditions or the potential for specific conditions should use extreme caution when taking Lexapro. The most common contraindicated conditions include: 

  • Liver or kidney problems
  • Heart problems
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Low sodium levels in the blood
  • High blood pressure 
  • History of stroke
  • Bleeding problems

Additionally, those who are pregnant or may become pregnant should not take Lexapro. Discuss your medical history in detail with your healthcare provider so they can determine whether Lexapro, Zoloft, or another medication is right for you. 

Lexapro Interactions

When taking Lexapro, it’s imperative to exercise caution if you are currently taking or plan to take any other medications. There are many drugs that should not be taken with Lexapro for a variety of reasons, so be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before taking any additional medications alongside Lexapro.

Some of the drugs you should avoid taking while on Lexapro include:

  • Bepridil
  • Dronedarone
  • Linezolid
  • Metoclopramide
  • Procarbazine
  • Terfenadine

What Is Zoloft?

Zoloft, like Lexapro, is an SSRI used to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety. It can also be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other mental health conditions. Zoloft, like other SSRIs, helps by prolonging the presence of serotonin in the brain before it’s absorbed by neurons.

Zoloft Forms and Doses

Zoloft can be prescribed in its name-brand form, or your healthcare provider may suggest the generic sertraline as a cheaper alternative. Both medications come in the form of tablets that are administered orally. 

Zoloft comes in three dosages, 25mg, 50mg, or 100mg. It is typically taken once a day, and it is recommended that you take it in the morning if you already have difficulty sleeping. Zoloft can be prescribed in quantities of 30, 45, 60, 90, or 180 tablets. 

Conditions Zoloft Treats

Zoloft is effective at treating numerous mental and emotional conditions tied to lowered serotonin levels. Similar to Lexapro, it can also have some off-label uses for individuals who don’t explicitly suffer from anxiety or depression. By evaluating Zoloft’s effects on anxiety, depression, and insomnia, those looking for relief can get a grasp on how it may ease their symptoms.

Anxiety

Zoloft has proven to be effective at treating both social anxiety disorder and panic disorder, as lowered serotonin levels are commonly associated with both. By altering the reuptake of serotonin into the neurons, the neurotransmitter is able to remain active in the brain for longer and contribute to a greater sense of emotional stability. This can help people feel at greater ease in social situations where they may feel panicky otherwise, making it easier to complete certain tasks and connect with others.

Depression

In addition to treating anxiety, Zoloft is also an effective treatment for depression. Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter for mood regulation, which is why lowered serotonin levels result in feelings of despair associated with depression. By increasing serotonin levels and simultaneously altering how the brain uses the chemical, Zoloft can help an individual’s mood feel more stable and decrease the overall severity of depression symptoms.

Insomnia

Zoloft’s effectiveness at treating insomnia is not entirely clear, as it can either improve or worsen your ability to sleep. Considering SSRIs, in general, can increase energy levels, if Zoloft is taken too late in the day, it may prevent an individual from falling asleep when they need to. Zoloft can also have the opposite effect, however, as increased serotonin levels may make individuals feel at greater ease, thus making it easier to fall asleep. Your healthcare provider will work with you to determine whether Zoloft is the right choice to treat your insomnia.

Zoloft Costs

Generic sertraline is relatively inexpensive, costing as little as $10 for 30 of the 100mg tablets. Similar to Lexapro, the name-brand Zoloft is significantly more expensive, costing as much as $510 for the same amount of medication. 

There is no difference in effectiveness between the generic and name-brand medications, and insurance is far more likely to cover the generic form of the drug.

Zoloft Side Effects

Those taking Zoloft may experience side effects ranging from mild to severe. If your side effects last for an extended period or become too overwhelming to manage, contact your healthcare provider immediately. 

Common side effects of Zoloft include: 

  • Drowsiness or tiredness
  • Feeling agitated or anxious
  • Indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, or loss of appetite
  • Sweating, tremors, or shaking
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Impotence or difficulty orgasming

Zoloft may also cause severe side effects in some people. If you experience any of the following, seek medical attention right away: 

  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Blurred vision or tunnel vision
  • Eye pain or swelling
  • Headache
  • Confusion or memory problems
  • Severe weakness or feeling unsteady
  • Racing thoughts or increased energy
  • Unusual risk-taking behavior
  • Extreme happiness
  • Irritability or unusually talkative

Zoloft Warnings for Use

Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about your allergies before taking Zoloft. Even if you’re not allergic to the medication itself, you may be allergic to one or more of the inactive ingredients. 

Additionally, tell your healthcare provider if you or your family has a history of any of the following conditions: 

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Bleeding problems
  • Liver disease
  • Seizure disorders
  • Thyroid disease
  • Angle-closure type glaucoma

Further, make certain you don’t have a potassium or magnesium deficiency before starting Zoloft, as this raises your chance of developing an arrhythmic heart condition. Discuss your full medical history with your medical provider so they can prescribe the anxiety or depression medication that’s right for you.

Zoloft Interactions

Zoloft may interact negatively with other medications, substances, or supplements. Make sure to disclose all medications and supplements to your healthcare provider before taking Zoloft. 

Contraindicated medications include: 

  • Pimozide
  • Clopidogrel
  • Ibuprofen, naproxen, and all other NSAIDs
  • Warfarin and dabigatran
  • Aspirin
  • Other SSRIs or SNRIs
  • Sleep aids
  • Antihistamines
  • Opiate-based painkillers or cough suppressants
  • MAOIs, which may cause a fatal interaction

Contraindicated supplements include: 

  • St. John’s wort
  • Tryptophan

Other contraindicated substances include: 

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • MDMA (ecstasy)

Before prescribing Zoloft, your healthcare provider will discuss your medical history, your current medications, and any other considerations that may impact the drug’s ability to help you.

Which Anxiety or Depression Medication Should I Take?

When deciding between Lexapro and Zoloft, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider to help determine which one is right for you. While both medications offer similar benefits in terms of how they help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, not everyone will react the same when taking them. 

If you suffer from anxiety or depression, Klarity can help. Book an appointment with a licensed psychiatric health provider today to learn whether Zoloft, Lexapro, or another medication is best for you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Lexapro and Zoloft

Is Lexapro or Zoloft Better for Treating Anxiety and Depression? 

Lexapro and Zoloft are both SSRIs, and most patients report the same results when using them. If your anxiety or depression symptoms are connected to PTSD or OCD, then Zoloft may be able to provide more comprehensive relief. Your healthcare provider will be able to help you make a decision based on your medical history and specific mental health needs.

Which Has Fewer Side Effects—Lexapro or Zoloft?

Lexapro and Zoloft have similar side effects, but Lexapro has fewer side effects overall. Not everyone responds to Lexapro in the same way, however, so if you are experiencing severe side effects, you may need to work with your medical provider and switch to another medication.

Can I Drive on Lexapro?

When you first start taking Lexapro, it is recommended that you avoid operating a motor vehicle until you understand how the medication affects you. Some people experience drowsiness or slower reaction time when taking Lexapro, which can make driving dangerous. These effects can decrease over time. 

Discuss all potential side effects of Lexapro and Zoloft with your psychiatric healthcare provider so they can help you choose the best medication.

Can I Drive on Zoloft?

Driving on Zoloft poses the same risks as Lexapro, as the medication can cause you to feel sleepy and reduce your alertness. Be careful to take note of how Zoloft affects you before getting behind the wheel.

Can I Drink Alcohol While Taking Lexapro or Zoloft?

While taking most antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications, it is recommended that you don’t drink alcohol. If you do, you may experience worsened drowsiness and coordination. Notify your healthcare provider if you regularly drink before taking either Lexapro or Zoloft.

How Long Does It Take for Zoloft to Work?

Zoloft doesn’t take effect right away, with most people only experiencing marginal improvements to their overall well-being after two weeks of taking the medication. After 6-8 weeks, you should begin to notice a positive change in depression symptoms overall.

How Long Does It Take for Lexapro to Work?

Lexapro follows a similar timetable as Zoloft, with most people only experiencing minimal changes in their mood after about two weeks. Some people may notice a marked improvement in as little as a month, but the full range of positive effects usually don’t materialize until eight weeks in.

Klarity Can Help You Get Help for Anxiety or Depression

When you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, the last thing you need is to jump through hoops to access care. 

On Klarity, we connect you with board-certified medical professionals qualified to diagnose and treat your condition online. Telehealth services mean you can attend appointments from anywhere, and our prices stay the same—whether or not you have insurance. 

You don’t have to manage your condition alone. Book an appointment with a licensed mental healthcare provider today.

Sources

“Lexapro” GoodRX https://www.goodrx.com/lexapro

“Zoloft” GoodRX https://www.goodrx.com/zoloft

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