Drug vs Drug

Cymbalta vs. Lexapro:
Which Is Better For Me?


Read our Cymbalta vs. Lexapro guide to discover the differences between these antidepressants and how to pick the right prescription drug for you.

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Cymbalta vs. Lexapro

Dealing with depression and/or anxiety isn’t easy. Although these are two different conditions, both of them can negatively impact careers, relationships and ambitions. If you’re struggling with a mental health condition, it’s important to seek treatment.

While there are a wide range of depression and anxiety treatments out there, many healthcare providers turn to prescription drugs like Cymbalta and Lexapro. Unfortunately, unless you’ve tried them before, it can be difficult to discern which drug is better for your body. To help patients decide, we’ve assembled a Cymbalta vs. Lexapro guide that breaks down their differences. Learn more about how these drugs work, the possible side effects, recommended dosage amounts and the benefits of DNA testing.

Cymbalta vs. Lexapro: What Are They?

Cymbalta and Lexapro both belong to a class of drugs known as antidepressants. They alter the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, which helps treat major depressive disorder and various anxiety disorders. However, they accomplish this through different means. Here’s a more in-depth breakdown of these medications.


Cymbalta (duloxetine) is a selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SSNRI). It works by increasing the levels of the following neurotransmitters:

  • Serotonin: This hormone stabilizes mood and increase satisfaction.
  • Norepinephrine: Norepinephrine can improve mood, concentration and energy.


By preventing neurons from absorbing these substances, Cymbalta can keep them in the brain for longer periods of time. The result is better physical and mental health, which in turn helps treat symptoms of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders.


Lexapro (escitalopram) is a common treatment of major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders. As a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), it focuses specifically on boosting serotonin levels in the brain. In addition to improving moods, serotonin can do the following:

  • Encourage better sleep
  • Increase digestive health
  • Assist with appetite


More serotonin leads to happier emotions and a healthier lifestyle.

Cymbalta vs. Lexapro: Common Side Effects

Whether you take Cymbalta or Lexapro, there’s a chance of experiencing unwanted side effects. The chart below outlines which side effects are common for Cymbalta users, Lexapro users and both.

Cymbalta Lexapro
Nausea Yes Yes
Indigestion No Yes
Diarrhea/constipation Yes Yes
Dry mouth Yes Yes
Higher blood pressure Yes No
Headaches/dizziness Yes No
Drowsiness Yes Yes
Lower appetite Yes Yes
Decreased sexual desire No Yes
Ideally, side effects should go away as your body gets used to the change in neurotransmitters. If side effects remain or worsen, you may need to adjust your dosage.

Cymbalta vs. Lexapro: Recommended Dosage Amounts

When deciding on a dosage amount, healthcare providers generally consider the following factors:

  • Age
  • Other medications you take
  • The condition you need treatment for
  • Other medical conditions you have


Of course, they also have to consider the potency (or strength) of the medication they’re prescribing. Since Cymbalta and Lexapro have different potencies, they come with different recommended dosage amounts. Let’s take a closer look at how they’re prescribed.


Cymbalta takes about two hours to absorb and is available in three different dosages:

  • 20 mg
  • 30 mg
  • 60 mg


When treating major depressive disorder, most healthcare providers start with a 40 mg to 60 mg dose. Over time, this can be increased up to 120 mg daily.


Lexapro can take anywhere from three to four hours to absorb and is available in the following amounts:

  • 5 mg
  • 10 mg
  • 20 mg


New users generally start with 10 mg a day. As the body builds a tolerance for the drug, the dosage may be increased up to 20 mg per day.

Cymbalta vs. Lexapro: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about Cymbalta and Lexapro.

Can Cymbalta and Lexapro be taken together?

Since Cymbalta is an SSNRI and Lexapro is an SSRI, some people falsely assume that they can be taken together to further reduce the symptoms of major depressive disorder. However, taking both drugs at the same time increases the risk of serotonin syndrome, a dangerous condition caused by excessive serotonin. It can cause the following effects:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sweating and shivering
  • Vision problems
  • Fever


While some medications can interact with each other, Cymbalta and Lexapro should not.

Can children take Cymbalta or Lexapro?

Children under 18 years of age should not take Cymbalta, while children under 12 years of age should not take Lexapro. In rare cases, healthcare providers may decide that a child should take these medications — when this happens, they will carefully determine a unique dosage.

Which medication is better for me?

There’s no right answer when it comes to choosing between these medications — it all depends on whether you experience side effects. In the past, the only way to determine this was by trying both drugs. Now, there’s a better solution: pharmacogenetic testing.

DNA Testing: Make Better Health Decisions Today!

Pharmacogenetic testing, also known as genetic or DNA testing, examines your genetic sequences for variations that may affect how you respond to certain medications. With this information, you’ll know whether you need to increase a dosage, decrease it or avoid a medication altogether. At ClarityX, we offer two comprehensive tests:

Skip the troublesome “trial and error” game by learning more about your metabolism today!

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