Citalopram is an antidepressant in the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) class that is prescribed for some anxiety disorders. Its is usually one of the first medicines a doctor will prescribe to try to treat these conditions. Using citalopram for anxiety often helps patients who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but has not been shown to reduce repetitive anxiety-related behaviors in autistic children. Like any mental health treatment, using citalopram for anxiety works best when used in conjunction with therapy and positive lifestyle choices.
Like other SSRIS drugs, citalopram works by increasing the brain's level of serotonin, which is a neuro-chemical related to happiness and sense of well-being. The increased sense of well-being produced by citalopram often reduces the symptoms of GAD or OCD by lowering the patient's heart rate and reducing fight-or-flight responses. It may also inhibit the buildup of anxiety that leads up to an acute panic attack in patients with panic disorder, but is less effective at this than certain as-needed anxiety medications, such as alprazolam. On the other hand, although the repetitive behaviors of autistic children often resemble the obsessive-compulsive behavior, citalopram has not been shown effective at reducing these behaviors when compared to placebos.
Patients taking citalopram for anxiety may not see results for several days, and the medication may not have full effect for one to two months, but it is still often a good first choice of treatment. SSRI medications generally have fewer side effects and drug interactions than other classes of antidepressants, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) or tricyclic antidepressants. Further, since the United States patent on citalopram is expired, it is often available in a low-cost generic. People's actual responses to mental health medications tend to vary widely, however, so if citalopram fails to control the symptoms of anxiety, another drug may likely work better.
For best results while taking citalopram for anxiety, patients should also try to care for their mental health in other ways. A combination of medication and therapy is often the best treatment regiment. Therapy may help the patient to develop coping strategies or to resolve underlying psychological problems, which medication alone cannot do. Good eating habits and regular exercise often improve the quality of life for those suffering from anxiety disorders.