Does Celexa cause impulsive behavior? (+5 tips)

In this article, we will answer the question “Does Celexa cause impulsive behavior?”. We will understand what is impulsive behavior and its impact on your overall health. This article will explore some research findings and ways to manage impulsive behavior. Managing impulsive behavior and other side effects such as aggressiveness, irritability and mood changes is essential for better treatment outcomes.


Does Celexa cause impulsive behavior?

Yes, Celexa can cause impulsive behavior. While impulsivity is not a commonly reported side effect of Celexa, some individuals may experience changes in mood or behavior as a result of taking the medication. 

Celexa (Citalopram) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It works by increasing the concentration of serotonin in the brain to treat depressive symptoms (1). This mechanism also helps reduce impulsive behaviors and anger issues associated with different mental disorders. 

Impulsive behavior is making rapid and unplanned reactions to any kind of stimuli regardless of any negative consequence. As defined by the International Society for Research, impulsive behavior is a spontaneous behavior without adequate thought. Symptoms of impulsive behavior may include: 

  • Quick decision-making
  • Interrupt others while talking
  • Difficulty waiting
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Excitability   (2)

What does the research suggest?

Studies have shown that when Celexa and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants are given at low dose concentrations, there will be low or normal SSRI levels in plasma. As a result, starting SSRI at low doses with slow and planned titrations helps reduce the likelihood of developing impulsivity. (3)

One clinical trial conducted on 25 subjects showed the effectiveness of Celexa in treating impulsive aggressive behavior. Celexa treatment was generally well tolerated and was completed by 20 subjects (4). Several other study results show that Celexa is highly effective in the treatment of impulsive behavior. (5)

Research on the impact of impulsive behavior shows that it can be significant and far-reaching. It can affect your choices and opportunities, family relationships and your overall ability to function well in social situations. Moreover, adults who have impulsive behaviors tend to be more at risk of encountering incidents of rage, violence and other harmful behavior.(2)

It’s important to note that our bodies are different from one another, so the effects of medications vary. You must monitor any changes in your behavior and report these changes to your healthcare provider immediately.



Potential mechanisms behind Celexa-induced impulsive behaviour

Celexa works by selectively inhibiting the serotonin reuptake into the nerve cells. This sudden decrease in the serotonergic tone is the reason behind impulsive and aggressive behavior.

A group of symptoms such as impulsivity, restlessness and insomnia is called activation symptoms. Antidepressant-induced impulsivity and other activation symptoms are also more likely to be related to genetic and neurochemical factors that interact with the physiological and pharmacological aspects of the individual. (3)


Risk factors for developing Celexa-induced impulsivity 

There are risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing Celexa-induced impulsivity. These risk factors include the following:

  •  Age: Children develop more activation symptoms than adolescents do.


  • Drug concentration: A high drug concentration of SSRI represents a rapid increase of SSRI in plasma concentration as a result, there is a greater risk of developing the side effect of impulsivity.


  • Underlying disorders: Presence of primary disorders such as ADHD, anxiety disorder and  Bipolar disorder.


  • Brain injury: Brain injuries can cause damage in the areas of the brain responsible for impulse control.


  • childhood trauma: Traumas can change how the brain processes stress and emotions. Trauma can cause overreactions and difficulty in thinking and controlling impulses.


  • Use of medications: Medications such as antipsychotic drugs, stimulants and opioids can cause impulsive behavior.  (3)


How to manage impulsive behavior?

Managing impulsive behavior often involves a combination of strategies. Here are some general tips for managing impulsive behavior caused by Celexa:

  • Try to practice how to stop yourself and think before making any reaction or making a decision.


  • Practice yourself to be more patient.


  • Identify your triggers and plan on avoiding them.


  • Walking and exercising help maintain your mental health in a better way.


  • Psychotherapy is a very effective treatment for impulsive behavior. Your psychiatrist should decide what type of psychotherapy would be the best approach in your situation.


  • Pharmaceutical interventions such as anti-psychotic drugs (olanzapine and risperidone), mood stabilizers ( lithium and valproate)  and stimulants (amphetamine and methylphenidate). 

What are the alternatives to Celexa if it causes impulsive behavior?

If you are experiencing impulsivity or other side effects with Celexa, it’s crucial to report your concerns to your healthcare providers. They can help explore alternative medications that may be better suited for your individual needs. Some commonly prescribed alternatives to Celexa include the same class of medications, SSRIs. This includes:

  • Sertraline (Zoloft): It’s a very effective antidepressant. It may have a different side effect profile compared to Celexa.
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro): It’s similar to Celexa but some individuals find relief while using it more than Celexa.
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac): It has a longer half-life than some other SSRIs and can be used to treat various mood disorders.
  • Paroxetine (Paxil): Also an SSRI that is mostly used for panic disorders and social anxiety. (6)



Celexa-induced impulsive behavior is related to the complex mechanism of antidepressants, especially SSRIs. The impact of impulsive behavior is significant and far-reaching and greatly affects the patient’s quality of life. Fortunately, this side effect of impulsivity is manageable and there are many ways to keep it under control. If you feel you still can’t gain control of your impulsivity, seek the help of a professional healthcare provider.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!



Bakhshani NM. Impulsivity: a predisposition toward risky behaviors. Int J High Risk Behav Addict. 2014 Jun 1;3(2):e20428.,knowledge%20and%20ability%20(23).


Luft MJ, Lamy M, DelBello MP, McNamara RK, Strawn JR. Antidepressant-Induced Activation in Children and Adolescents: Risk, Recognition and Management. Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care. 2018 Feb;48(2):50-62.


Reist C, Nakamura K, Sagart E, Sokolski KN, Fujimoto KA. Impulsive aggressive behavior: open-label treatment with citalopram. J Clin Psychiatry. 2003 Jan;64(1):81-5.


Armenteros JL, Lewis JE. Citalopram treatment for impulsive aggression in children and adolescents: an open pilot study. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2002 May;41(5):522-9.


Sanchez C, Reines EH, Montgomery SA. A comparative review of escitalopram, paroxetine, and sertraline: Are they all alike? Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2014 Jul;29(4):185-96.

Find a supportive therapist who can help with Depression.

Discover the convenience of BetterHelp, an online therapy platform connecting you with licensed and accredited therapists specialized in addressing issues such as depression, anxiety, relationships, and more. Complete the assessment and find your ideal therapist within just 48 hours.


AskYourPharm is user-supported. We may earn a commission if you sign up for BetterHelp’s services after clicking through from this site