Citalopram for Major Depression: What it is, How it Works, and What Benefits it Provides

Citalopram for Major Depression:  What it is, How it Works, and What Benefits it Provides
Page content

If you are suffering from major depression, your doctor may prescribe one of the antidepressant drugs that have demonstrated efficacy in treating and managing the symptoms of depression. Here we discuss Citalopram as a treatment for depression. We give a brief overview of the drug, explain how it works, and examine its potential benefits.

Overview of Citalopram

Citalopram is an antidepressant medication, classed as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs), and used to manage and treat major depressive disorder. While it has other off-label uses, like treating obsessive compulsive disorder or panic disorder, for the purposes of this writing let us focus on its use in treating depression.

The generic name is Citalopram hydrobromide (Citalopram HBr); the generic is manufactured by several different companies. The brand name is Celexa, and it is manufactured by Forest Pharmaceuticals .

According to Forest Pharmaceuticals, the usual dosage is one tablet daily taken with or without food. It is available in 10, 20, and 40 mg tablets or an oral peppermint flavored solution of 10 mg per 5 ml. Initial doses start at 20 mg daily and should be increased gradually in increments to the optimal dose of 40 mg daily. These are general guidelines; physicians individualize the dosage according to the severity of symptoms and patient response.

Patients should not stop taking Citalopram, unless advised by their physician, as there is a risk of withdrawal symptoms.

Image Credit/Wikimedia Commons/fimpelman/GNUFDL

How does it Work?

Many health experts, like those at Harvard Medical School, believe one cause of depression could be impaired levels of chemicals, such as serotonin, in the brain. Therefore, SSRIs, like Citalopram, that increase the concentration of those chemicals in the spaces between the neurons, help regulate the chemical balance.

How does it work? In the words of the manufacturer: “The mechanism of action of Citalopram HBr as an antidepressant is presumed to be linked to potentiation of serotonergic activity in the central nervous system (CNS) resulting from its inhibition of CNS neuronal reuptake of serotonin ((5-HT).”1 What does that mean in layman’s terms?

Citalopram works by blocking serotonin reabsorption by nerve cells in the brain. This frees up serotonin, and the levels in the brain are gradually brought back into the proper balance. Why is this called a selective drug? It is called selective because of its ability to select and affect only the serotonin receptors in the brain. This is a slow process; it may take three to six weeks for individuals experience noticeable results. It is important to have patience and allow time for the medication to work.

What are the Benefits?

Patients may experience some or all of the following benefits from taking Citalopram:

  • Depression is alleviated or prevented.
  • There is a noticeable reduction of associated symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Individuals are able to socialize, attend school, or return to work while under medication.
  • There are fewer relapses in individuals using Citalopram.
  • There is less chance of Citalopram interacting with other prescription medications.
  • According to articles in Harvard Health Publications, Citalopram is safe and effective. SSRIs are safer as treatments for the elderly because they do not affect heart rhythms or cause dizziness.

Now that you have more information about what Citalopram is, how it works, and why it is beneficial, you can make an informed decision if your physician prescribes Citalopram for your major depression.


Celexa “Celexa HBr Prescribing Information,” accessed 09/15/2010

University of Michigan Health System, Healthwise Knowledgebase: citalopram, accessed 09/15/2010

Bryn Mawr College, “Depression at the Synaptic Level: SSRIs and their limitations,” Richard Cruz, 01/17/2009, accessed 09/13/2009

Medicine Net, “Medications and Drugs,” accessed 09/13/2010

Mayo Clinic, “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), accessed 09/13/2010

Harvard Health Publications, “What are the real risks of antidepressants,?” 2005, accessed 09/13/2010

Harvard Health Publications, “What causes depression?,” accessed 09/15/2010