Nearly 30 percent of adults will deal with an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, according to the American Psychiatric Association. If that’s you, the medication Lexapro may come up if you discuss treatment interventions with your doctor—along with a slew of questions like how much it will help and the best time to take Lexapro for anxiety.

Because, after all, you don’t just want to treat your anxiety—you want to throw everything you’ve got at it so you can feel more like yourself again.

Meet the experts: Yvette I. Sheline, MD, is a professor of psychiatry, radiology, and neurology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Douglas Misquitta, MD, is a psychiatrist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine in Columbus, Ohio. Peter Martin, MD, is a professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville Tennessee.

Timing matters with some medications, and certain drugs are designed to be taken with or without food. Of course it’s important to talk to your doctor about all of this before taking any medication, including Lexapro. But if you’re waiting for your next appointment to ask all your pressing questions, here’s some information courtesy of doctors who prescribe the medication.

What is Lexapro?

Lexapro is the brand name for escitalopram, and it’s in a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), according to Medline Plus.

It works by increasing your body’s amount of serotonin, a natural substance in the brain that helps maintain mental balance, and it’s a common treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, along with depression, says Yvette I. Sheline, MD, a professor of psychiatry, radiology, and neurology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Lexapro works over time versus being something that impacts you immediately after you take it, Dr. Sheline adds.

The overall goal of taking Lexapro is to be less anxious, and the medication generally works well for people. SSRIs like escitalopram keep the feel-good hormone serotonin circulating longer in the body in order to improve mood, says Douglas Misquitta, MD, a psychiatrist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine.

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Lexapro Side Effects

As with every medication, you can have potential side effects with Lexapro. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a laundry list of those if you have some time to kill. But here are some to consider, per Medline Plus:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Sexual problems in males; decreased sex drive, inability to get or keep an erection, or delayed or absent ejaculation
  • sexual problems in females; decreased sex drive, or delayed orgasm or unable to have an orgasm
  • Drowsiness
  • Yawning
  • Shaking
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Increased sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Heartburn
  • Stomach pain
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing

When is the best time to take Lexapro?

Lexapro is designed to be taken once a day, and it’s up to you when you take it, says Peter Martin, MD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “It can be taken in the a.m. or p.m.,” he says.

Consider your lifestyle when deciding when to take your Lexapro, as well as what you’ll actually stick with, Dr. Sheline says. “The important thing is to have a regular time of day to take it,” she adds.

Keep this in mind, though, per Dr. Misquitta: You’ll want to keep tabs on how Lexapro impacts your sleep, if it all. “It is usually suggested to be taken in the morning so as to not negatively impact sleep,” he says. [But] some patients might find the medication makes them sleepy—in that case, it can be taken at night before bed.” (The reason why is just down to your own biology and how you’re personally impacted by serotonin.)

Whatever you decide on, it’s best to take your medication at that time every day so the amount of time between doses is consistent, Dr. Misquitta says.

Do you take Lexapro with food?

You can take Lexapro with a meal or snack, but you don’t have to take it with food. That said, Dr. Misquitta recommends listening to your body and paying attention to how you feel after you take Lexapro.

If you find it makes you a little queasy afterward, “taking it with food may lessen the nausea,” he says.

Can you take Lexapro with other medications?

Lexapro is designed to be a daily use medication and at some point, you may get sick with something that might require another drug, like antibiotics. If your doctor is giving you a prescription, just make sure they’re aware you’re on Lexapro (it should be in your chart, but…).

In general, it’s no biggie to take Lexapro with other medications, Dr. Misquitta says. But some, like ones that impact your heart rhythm or those that can make you feel drowsy could cause you to have a higher risk of side effects, he says, so it’s important to flag it with your doc.

Again, if you’re on Lexapro and you have questions, talk to your doctor. They should be able to answer any concerns you have and provide personalized guidance from there.

What happens if you miss a dose of Lexapro?

If you miss a dose of Lexapro, don’t panic—it happens. “Missing one dose on occasion is no big deal,” Dr. Martin says.

Dr. Sheline recommends taking it as soon as you remember. “If a dose is forgotten for an entire day, the dose should not be doubled up on the next day,” she says. “Simply take the usual dose.”

Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives by the beach, and hopes to own a teacup pig and taco truck one day.

Headshot of Douglas Misquitta, MD

Psychiatrist

Douglas Misquitta, MD, is a board-certified general and forensic psychiatrist at The Ohio State University (OSU) Wexner Medical Center. He treats patients with disorders that include major depression, generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and personality disorders. Dr. Misquitta is medical director of OSU Harding’s ambulatory services and director of OSU’s Forensic Psychiatry fellowship training program.