Written by Shannon,
7 Minute Read
Medically reviewed by:
Jen Miller, PMHNP-BC
10 Minute Read
Prozac and Lexapro are both selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are medications that can be used to help treat depression and other mental health conditions such as anxiety by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps maintain mental balance—your brain’s balance is constantly changing because of your environment, behaviors, diet, and even other medications you take. So, increasing the amount of available serotonin in your brain through SSRIs can help improve your mood and reduce symptoms.
Additionally, SSRIs can help stimulate the growth of new cells and create stronger connections, particularly in an area of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). New cell growth in the DLPFC can balance areas of your brain that control anger, fear, memories, and mood.
Lexapro has been approved to treat depression and generalized anxiety disorder, and Prozac is an antidepressant that can be used to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, panic attacks, and more.
In terms of which is best for you, it may depend on your diagnosis. For depression, your provider may start with either Prozac, Lexapro, or another medication depending on your symptoms.
Although both Prozac and Lexapro are antidepressants, there are a few key differences between them that may be useful to know if you are searching for the right medication for your individual needs.
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Antidepressants: choosing the right medication
Before getting into some details about Prozac and Lexapro, let’s talk about the importance of finding the right antidepressant for your individual situation. It’s not a contest of Prozac vs. Lexapro for anxiety or depression—it’s simply a matter of determining which medication works best for you.
There are a few key factors that you may want to take into consideration when working with your provider to find the right medication, such as:
- The symptoms that you are experiencing relating to your mental health
- Possible side effects of different medications
- Whether or not a certain medication worked well for one of your close relatives
- Potential drug interactions
- Costs and insurance coverage
That said, both Prozac and Lexapro are SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. This means that both of these antidepressants work by preventing your body from reabsorbing serotonin, thus leading to increased available levels of this neurotransmitter.
At Brightside Health, you can fill out our free online assessment to give us a better understanding of your individual needs and concerns. Then we connect you with a psychiatric provider who will match you with the right medication for your needs.
If prescribed, your medication can be delivered to your doorstep. Experiencing a mental health condition can be tough, but you can get the care you deserve right from the comfort of your home with Brightside.
Let’s take a look at what you need to know about Prozac and Lexapro.
What is Prozac? What do I need to know?
Prozac is the brand name for the drug fluoxetine and is FDA-approved to treat depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, certain eating disorders, and panic disorder. Fluoxetine is also sometimes used to treat other mental health conditions, like premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Prozac is available in a few different forms, including capsules, tablets, and liquid, and it can generally be taken with or without food.
When you start taking Prozac, it can take 4 to 6 weeks for you to really start feeling the benefits, so it is important to be patient when starting a new prescription. Even if you do start to feel the effects, you should continue taking your medication unless instructed otherwise by your provider.
If you feel like you may want to switch from Prozac to Lexapro, it is important to keep in mind that it is not a good idea to suddenly stop taking your Prozac medication. Instead, if you need to switch medications or otherwise stop using Prozac, your provider will work with you to craft a plan to wean you off of your medication. Suddenly stopping can lead to discontinuation syndrome which causes withdrawal symptoms such as mood changes, dizziness, irritability, anxiety, headaches, confusion, and sweating.
Understanding what to expect
Before you start taking Prozac, you should inform your provider if you are allergic to any other medications and if you are currently taking any other medications, and even vitamins or supplements. Prozac, like many medications, can have some drug interactions, so it is important to make your provider aware of any medicines you take regularly.
Prozac is generally a safe medication, but it’s important to talk with your Brightside team about the potential side effects of this treatment.
Side effects from fluoxetine are usually temporary, but talk to your provider if any of these symptoms become severe or don’t go away:
- Change in sex drive or ability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
- Loss of appetite
- Memory problems
- Uncontrollable shaking
What is Lexapro? What do I need to know?
Lexapro is the brand name for escitalopram, and it is also an antidepressant that is FDA-approved for the treatment of depression and anxiety. It may also be used to treat other mental health conditions. Escitalopram belongs to a classification of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It works by restoring the balance of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the hormone that plays a crucial role in helping stabilize mood, and contributes to happiness and well-being.
Within the first couple of weeks taking Lexapro (escitalopram), you may notice improvements in your sleep, energy, or appetite. These improvements can be an important first sign that your medication is doing its job. That said, it can take up to 6 to 8 weeks to achieve the full effects so it is important to be patient.
Lexapro has the potential to cause some side effects, including headaches, nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth, nervousness or restlessness, fatigue, or sleep disturbances. That said, side effects are usually mild and generally go away in a few weeks as your body adjusts to the medication. If you ever experience severe side effects or if your side effects do not start to improve, you should consult your provider.
Like Prozac, Lexapro can interact with other drugs, making it important to inform your doctor of any other medications, vitamins, or supplements you are already taking.
Both Prozac and Lexapro can be highly effective at treating depression and other mental illnesses. You should work with your provider to help understand which is the best fit for your individual needs.
The bottom line
Prozac and Lexapro are two commonly used antidepressants, with Prozac being the brand name for fluoxetine while Lexapro is the brand name for escitalopram. Both of these antidepressants are SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning that they impact your body’s ability to reabsorb serotonin, ultimately leading to increased levels of serotonin in the brain.
Although Prozac and Lexapro work in similar ways, they do have a few minor differences including dosages, side effects, and drug interactions. Your provider will consider all of these factors when recommending a medication.
Deciding whether Prozac versus Lexapro works best for you may take some time. Everyone experiences anxiety and depression differently so a medication that works for one person might not work for another. A licensed provider can help you understand which medication will work best for your individual needs.