Depression Home > What Is Lexapro Used For?

How Does Lexapro Work?

Lexapro is part of a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs for short. SSRIs, such as Lexapro, act on a specific chemical within the brain known as serotonin. Serotonin is one of several chemicals used to send messages from one nerve cell to another.
 
As a message travels down a nerve, it causes the end of the cell to release serotonin. The serotonin enters the gap between the first nerve cell and the one next to it. When enough serotonin reaches the second nerve cell, it activates receptors on the cell and the message continues on its way. The first cell then quickly absorbs any serotonin that remains in the gap between cells. This is called "reuptake."
 
Normally, this process works without any problems. But when the levels of serotonin become unbalanced, this imbalance can cause a variety of conditions, including depression. Lexapro helps to block the reuptake of serotonin so that more serotonin remains in the space between the brain's nerve cells. This gives the serotonin a better chance of activating the receptors on the next nerve cell.
 

Lexapro Use in Children

Lexapro is not approved for use in childhood anxiety, although it is approved to treat depression in adolescents as young as 12 years old. In one study of Lexapro in children, Lexapro was not shown to be effective for children. Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of using Lexapro in children with depression or anxiety.
 

Off-Label Lexapro Uses

On occasion, your healthcare provider may recommend Lexapro for treating something other than the conditions listed above. This is called an "off-label" use. At this time, some off-label Lexapro uses include the treatment of:
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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