Cymbalta vs. Lexapro: Which One is Better for Depression Treatment

February 2, 2023
Cymbalta vs Lexapro
Cymbalta vs. Lexapro: Which One is Better for Depression Treatment

Cymbalta and Lexapro are prescription medications commonly indicated for treating major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Depression manifests with sadness for at least two weeks, low energy, loss of interest in daily activities, and other symptoms. According to ADAA, up to 6.7 percent of American adults had at least one episode of depression in 2017, and it is the leading cause of disability in the US.

On the other hand, anxiety affects around 6.8 million adults in the U.S. and manifests with excessive worry for more than six months. The worry can be about family, health, finances, relationships, or other aspects. It is usually out of proportion to the trigger.

While both Cymbalta and Lexapro are prescribed for anxiety and depression, they differ in several aspects. If you’re contemplating switching from one to the other, consult your doctor and consider the comparison of Cymbalta vs. Lexapro below.

Contact a doctor online to get your symptoms checked and receive a prescription online.

Lexapro vs. Cymbalta: Drug Class and Mechanism of Action

Lexapro is the brand name of escitalopram, an antidepressant drug belonging to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) class of medications. It relieves anxiety and improves mood by blocking reabsorption and increasing the concentration of serotonin at the neuronal synapse. Other medications with a similar mechanism of action and indications include Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac.

Similarly, Cymbalta is the brand name of a drug for treating depression, duloxetine. Unlike Lexapro, it blocks the reuptake of norepinephrine and serotonin neurotransmitters at the synapse. Thus, Cymbalta for anxiety belongs to the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) group of medications. Other SNRI drugs include Pristiq and Effexor.

Drug Forms and Dosage: Cymbalta vs. Lexapro

Characteristic Cymbalta Lexapro
Form Delayed-release oral capsules Tablets Oral Solution
Strength 20 mg, 30 mg, 60 mg 5 mg, 10 mg, 20 mg 5 mg/5 ml
Recommended daily dose 40 mg to 60 mg once daily 10 mg to 20 mg once daily

Both drugs have lower-cost generic forms. To know more about the most suitable medication form and dosage of Lexapro or Cymbalta for depression, consult your doctor.

The Uses of Cymbalta and Lexapro

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves Cymbalta and Lexapro for treating major depressive and generalized anxiety disorders. However, Cymbalta is approved for several other conditions.

Besides, doctors often prescribe Lexapro and Cymbalta medications for off-label uses. Off-label implies the drug is not approved for treating that specific condition, but it might be effective in relieving the symptoms.

Lexapro vs Cymbalta

Below is a summary of the conditions treated by Cymbalta vs. Lexapro:

Condition Cymbalta Lexapro
Major depressive disorder Yes Yes
Generalized Anxiety Disorder Yes Yes
Diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain Yes No
Fibromyalgia Yes No
Social Anxiety Disorder No Off-label
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder No Off-label
Panic disorder No Off-label
Posttraumatic stress disorder No Off-label
Obsessive-compulsive disorder No Off-label
Urinary incontinence Off-label No
Chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy Off-label No

Your doctor might prescribe Cymbalta, Lexapro, or another medication based on your diagnosis, particular symptoms, and overall health history. Before beginning treatment, the doctor should explain how the drug will help your condition.

The efficacy of the same medication can vary in different people. Consult a doctor to know what medicine will help you best.

Cymbalta vs. Lexapro: Which One is More Effective?

According to a comparative study, Lexapro is superior to Cymbalta in the short-term treatment of depression. However, both medications are equally effective in long-term depression and anxiety treatment, with Lexapro more tolerable.

Due to the adverse effects, withdrawal rates were higher in patients taking Cymbalta for depression than those taking Lexapro. But this does not depict any difference in their efficacy. Patients are more likely to discontinue treatment when taking Cymbalta than when taking Lexapro because of the side effects.

Lexapro vs. Cymbalta Side Effects

Both medications can potentially cause unwanted responses even if taken in the recommended doses. Some side effects are common to Cymbalta and Lexapro owing to the regulation of the same neurotransmitter — serotonin.

The shared side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Sleeping disturbance
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sexual dysfunction

Other side effects unique to Cymbalta include slowed gastric emptying and increased blood pressure. Men taking Lexapro for depression or anxiety might experience delayed ejaculation.

Cymbalta medication

Drug Interactions

Cymbalta and Lexapro can interact with other medications leading to decreased efficacy or more severe adverse reactions. Before taking either drug, inform your doctor of all the current or recently taken medications, including herbal medicines and supplements.

You should not take Cymbalta or Lexapro within two weeks of taking MAOIs (Phenelzine, Emsam, etc.) due to the risk of side effects. Drug interactions can also occur between Lexapro or Cymbalta and:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Buspirone
  • Amphetamine
  • St John’s wort

Avoid drinking alcohol when taking either of the medications. There’s a risk of hepatic failure in subjects taking alcohol during treatment with Cymbalta.


Cymbalta and Lexapro are prescription medications for treating generalized anxiety and major depressive disorders in adults. Both improve mood and relieve anxiety by altering neurotransmitter concentration at the neuronal synapse. However, the two medications differ in several aspects, including drug class, mechanism of action, dosage, and side effects. Consult a doctor to know what medication will help you manage your condition effectively.


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