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Mental health is a huge part of everyone’s everyday life. If not managed properly, mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, can have serious, negative impacts on productivity and wellbeing. In some cases, people with mental health conditions may pursue treatment with medication, and Lexapro (escitalopram) and Paxil are two commonly prescribed medications to treat a realm of these conditions.

Both Lexapro and Paxil are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), but each medication is different and may affect one person differently than another. Before taking an antidepressant to treat a mental health condition, it is important to understand your options, as well as the many differences from one medication to another.

What’s the difference between Lexapro and Paxil?

There are multiple differences between the two medications. One of the main differences, however, is the various and differing mental health conditions each medication can treat.

In general, physicians prescribe Lexapro to treat:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Depression, including depression related to Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

In general, physicians prescribe Paxil to treat:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Please note that this list is not complete. Further, it is critical to talk with your doctor about which medication is right for you, based on your individual needs. Side effects of each medication may differ from one individual to another, so always communicate any that you experience with your prescribing physician.

Is Lexapro better than Paxil?

Keep in mind that one medication may be “better” for one person, based on that person’s individual health profile. It is critical to thoroughly discuss the differences between Lexapro and Paxil with your prescribing physician before starting treatment with either.

One 2016 study looked at the effectiveness and tolerability of three commonly prescribed antidepressants: escitalopram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline. The study found escitalopram to have more advantages in the efficacy and tolerability categories, in comparison with the other two SSRIs. Please note, the efficacy and tolerability of each drug may differ from one individual to another, and your physician will be able to discuss such differences in-depth with you.

The Bottom Line

To say that one medication is more effective than the other is limited here. The effectiveness of each medication will depend entirely on the individual and the mental health condition(s) it intends to treat.

Always talk with your physician about the symptoms you are experiencing before starting treatment with medication. This way, they will be able to properly diagnose you and determine which medication is right for you.

Disclaimer: this article does not constitute or replace medical advice. If you have an emergency or a serious medical question, please contact a medical professional or call 911 immediately. To see our full medical disclaimer, visit our Terms of Use page.


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