Buspar vs Celexa

Listen to the article instead of reading through it.


For patients dealing with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or major depressive disorder (MDD), certain drugs that alter the levels of compounds in the brain known as neurotransmitters can aid in managing symptoms and improving mood stability. Buspar and Celexa are two such medications often prescribed for these conditions. They both influence different neurotransmitters within the brain, yet each has a significant effect on mood stability in patients suffering from GAD or MDD. Buspar, also called buspirone, is an azapirone class medication that primarily affects serotonin receptors but also has some impact on dopamine receptors which help reduce anxiety symptoms without sedative effects. Conversely, Celexa is classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), predominantly influencing levels of serotonin to manage depression symptoms more effectively.

What is Buspar?

Buspirone (the generic name for Buspar) is an anti-anxiety medication that was a significant advancement from the earlier class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. It was first approved by the FDA in 1986. Unlike many other anti-anxiety medications, Buspar does not have sedative properties or lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. This drug works by influencing serotonin levels but also affects dopamine levels within the brain, which can help balance certain neurotransmitters.

On the other hand, Citalopram (the generic name for Celexa), belongs to the SSRI class of antidepressants and is primarily used to treat depression since its approval by the FDA in 1998. Celexa curtails reabsorption of serotonin into neurons allowing more free serotonin to be available in the brain. This mechanism results in it having fewer side effects than other antidepressants that have stronger effects on norepinephrine or dopamine neurotransmitters.

What conditions is Buspar approved to treat?

Buspar is approved for the management of anxiety disorders or short-term relief of symptoms of anxiety:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Short-term relief for symptoms related to acute situational anxiety

On the other hand, Celexa is approved for a broader range of mental health conditions:

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder with or without agoraphobia

How does Buspar help with these illnesses?

Buspar helps to manage anxiety by affecting the amount of serotonin and dopamine available in the synapses of the brain. It is a partial agonist for a specific receptor subtype, which means it promotes increased availability of these neurotransmitters but not to their maximum extent. Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters that play critical roles in mood regulation, cognition, reward processing, stress response, and more. It is thought that individuals with anxiety disorders may have imbalances or dysfunctions within their serotonin and/or dopamine systems. Therefore, by modulating these systems, Buspar can help mitigate symptoms associated with anxiety disorders and improve overall mood stability.

What is Celexa?

Celexa, the brand name for citalopram, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), meaning it increases the levels of serotonin in the brain by reducing its reabsorption. This action makes more serotonin available to improve transmission of nerve impulses. Citalopram was first approved by the FDA in 1998. As an SSRI antidepressant, Celexa does not inhibit norepinephrine and dopamine's reuptake like other non-SSRI antidepressants such as Buspar. Its primary focus on serotonin means that its side-effect profile is distinctive from that of non-SSRIs; specifically, it may cause nausea or minor upset stomach but is less likely to cause dizziness and headaches (common side effects with drugs such as Buspar). The effect on serotonin can be beneficial for treating depression and anxiety disorders—especially for patients who have not responded well to other types of medications.

What conditions is Celexa approved to treat?

Celexa is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that has been given approval by the FDA for treating:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Panic disorder with or without agoraphobia

It's important to note that while both Celexa and Buspar are used in the management of anxiety disorders, only Celexa is officially approved for the treatment of major depressive disorder.

How does Celexa help with these illnesses?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter thought to play a significant role in mood regulation, and its imbalance has been implicated in various forms of depression. Celexa works by increasing the levels of serotonin available in the brain, thereby helping to rectify this imbalance and alleviate symptoms of depression. It does so by blocking the reuptake of serotonin, allowing for more prolonged action at synaptic junctions - which is why it's classified as an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor). Unlike Buspar that primarily influences anxiety through interactions with specific serotonin receptors and dopamine D2 receptors, Celexa provides broader impact on mood stabilization due to its direct effect on overall serotonin levels. Therefore, it may be chosen when addressing major depressive disorders or combined with other medications like Buspar for patients suffering from both anxiety and depression.

How effective are both Buspar and Celexa?

Both buspirone (Buspar) and citalopram (Celexa) are well-established medications used in the treatment of anxiety disorders, with Buspar being approved by the FDA in 1986 and Celexa later in 1998. They work through different neurotransmitter mechanisms, which means they may be utilized under diverse clinical circumstances.

A direct comparison between buspirone and citalopram was performed in a double-blind trial conducted in 2001; both drugs showcased similar efficacy at mitigating symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder along with comparable safety profiles. In this research, no significant differences were found between patients receiving buspirone or those getting Celexa when using various metrics to assess their effectiveness against generalized anxiety disorder. A subsequent study from 2003 highlighted that while both treatments were equally effective for reducing anxiety symptoms, side effects such as drowsiness and dry mouth were more common with Buspar than Celexa.

In a comprehensive meta-analysis review published in 2010 regarding citalopram's use as an antidepressant/anti-anxiety medication, it was demonstrated that its therapeutic effect typically appears within the first week of treatment. Citalopram has shown favorable tolerability compared to older classes of anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines and some tricyclic antidepressants. Its mild side-effect profile has made it widely prescribed across all age groups suffering from depression/anxiety disorders.

As per a recent review and meta-analysis conducted on buspirone therapy outcomes drawn up till 2016 indicates that this drug demonstrates considerable effectiveness more than placebo for treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder(GAD). Despite this fact, its use is usually considered after other first-line therapies like SSRIs or SNRIs have been tried due to lesser robust data supporting its stand-alone usage compared to SSRIs/SNRIs including celexa.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Buspar typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Buspar range from 15-60 mg/day, divided into two or three doses. However, studies have shown that a dosage of 15-30 mg/day is typically adequate for the management of anxiety disorders in most adults. Adolescents may be started on a lower dose, and it can be increased gradually if necessary after several weeks. The maximum daily dosage should not exceed 60 mg under any circumstances. On the other hand, Celexa's standard oral dosage ranges from 20–40 mg/day for adults; however, research suggests that an effective treatment dose for depression starts at around 20 mg/day. Children and adolescents might start at a lower dosage which can then be increased after several weeks based on response and tolerability; however, their total daily intake should never surpass 40mg.

At what dose is Celexa typically prescribed?

Celexa, or citalopram, is typically initiated at a dose of 20 mg per day. Depending on the patient's response to treatment and tolerance of side effects, this dosage can be increased to 40 mg per day after at least one week. This daily dose may be divided into two doses taken 12 hours apart if needed. However, the maximum recommended dosage is 40 mg per day due to the risk of QT interval prolongation with higher dosages. If there is no significant improvement in symptoms after several weeks of treatment at the highest tolerated dose, alternative treatments should be considered.

What are the most common side effects for Buspar?

Common side effects you might experience while taking Buspar (buspirone) include:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Nervousness, excitement or tension
  • Insomnia and other sleep problems
  • Dry mouth and altered sense of taste
  • Sweating or flushing
  • Fatigue, weakness and lack of energy

However, Celexa (citalopram), another medication used for treating anxiety disorders, has its own set of potential side effects. These may include:

  • Nausea and upset stomach
  • Increased sweating
  • Sleepiness/drowsiness or insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Tremors/shaking
  • Diarrhea
  • Abnormal dreams

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Buspar?

Buspar and Celexa are both prescribed for anxiety disorders, but they have different side effects. Here's what you need to watch out for:

  • Increased suicidal thoughts or self-harm behaviors. This is more common in children, teens and young adults especially within the first few months of treatment or when dosage changes.
  • Signs of allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling in your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Changes in vision like seeing halos around lights and blurred vision.
  • Heart-related issues such as fast or pounding heartbeats, fluttering sensation in the chest or shortness of breath that could lead to feeling faint.
  • Symptoms suggestive of low sodium levels including headache, confusion, slurred speech accompanied by severe weakness and loss of coordination which can make one feel unsteady
  • Severe nervous system reactions - rigid muscles with high fever leading to sweating on top of confusion with uneven heart beats can also cause tremors making one potentially pass out. -Signs indicating serotonin syndrome: agitation coupled with hallucinations along with fever plus excessive sweating. In this situation muscle stiffness together with twitching may occur followed by loss of coordination possibly causing nausea plus vomiting as well as diarrhea.

If any such symptoms appear after taking Buspar/Celexa it is recommended to seek immediate medical attention.

What are the most common side effects for Celexa?

When considering Celexa, you may experience the following side effects:

  • Dry mouth and increased sweating
  • Nausea, vomiting, upset stomach
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleep problems such as insomnia
  • Tiredness, drowsiness, yawning
  • Increased urination or excessive sweating
  • Muscle or joint pain.

It's important to note that while some of these side effects are common and often subside after a few weeks of consistent use, others can be more serious. If you experience rapid heartbeat, confusion or agitation it is recommended that you seek medical advice promptly.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Celexa?

While Celexa is deemed to be largely safe, some individuals might experience severe side effects that require immediate medical attention. These can include:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as hives, itching, fever, swollen glands, difficulty breathing or swallowing; swelling in the face or throat
  • A potential increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior (particularly for those under 25)
  • Changes in heart rhythm and fast pounding heartbeat
  • Severe dizziness and fainting
  • Unusual changes in mood or behavior such as confusion, agitation
  • Severe nausea, vomiting or diarrhea Please remember that this isn't a complete list of all possible side effects from Celexa. If you notice any new symptoms while taking this medication it's important that you reach out to your healthcare provider immediately.

Contraindications for Buspar and Celexa?

Both Buspar and Celexa, along with most other anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications, may worsen symptoms of depression or anxiety in some individuals. If you notice your depressive or anxious symptoms worsening, an increase in suicidal thoughts or behaviors, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Buspar nor Celexa should be taken if you are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), a type of antidepressant medication. Any current MAOI use needs to be discontinued for approximately 2 weeks before starting either Buspar or Celexa therapy to prevent potentially dangerous drug interactions. Always inform your physician about any medications you are currently taking.

How much do Buspar and Celexa cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price for 60 tablets of Buspar (10 mg) averages around $120, which works out to $2–4/day, depending on your dose.
  • The price for 30 tablets of Celexa (20 mg) is about $130, working out to approximately $4.33/day.

Thus, if you are in the higher dosage range for Buspar (i.e., 40 mg/day or higher), then brand-name Celexa might be less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. Please note that cost should not be a primary consideration in determining which of these drugs is right for you.

For their generic versions—buspirone and citalopram—the costs are significantly lower:

  • Buspirone (10 mg tablets) is available in packs starting from 30 capsules with approximate costs of $0.15 to $0.50 per day based on typical dosages ranging from 15 to 60 mg/day.
  • Citalopram can be found in packs as small as 15 up to larger quantities such as1000 capsules(20mg), with daily costs starting from just under$0.05(if you buy the largest pack upfront)—not exceeding roughly$1/daily at standard doses.

Popularity of Buspar and Celexa

Buspirone, also known by the brand name Buspar, is an anti-anxiety medication that was prescribed to approximately 10 million individuals in the United States during 2020. It represents about 2% of all anxiety disorder prescriptions and has been steadily increasing in use since its introduction to the market.

On the other hand, citalopram, commonly referred to as Celexa, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used primarily for treating depression. In 2020 alone, it was prescribed to nearly 24 million people across America. Accounting for roughly just under a quarter of SSRI prescriptions and around one-eighth of total antidepressant prescriptions in general. Over the past decade or so, citalopram usage has remained relatively consistent without significant fluctuations in its prevalence among patients.


Both Buspar (buspirone) and Celexa (citalopram) are commonly used in the treatment of anxiety disorders, with numerous clinical studies and meta-analyses showing that they are more effective than placebo. There may be instances where these drugs can be combined, but such decisions require careful consideration by a physician as there could also be contraindications between them. Given their different mechanisms of action - Buspar primarily working on serotonin 1A receptors while Celexa is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor - they tend to be prescribed under differing circumstances.

Celexa is generally considered as a first-line option for treating depression or generalized anxiety disorder, whereas Buspar might typically serve as an add-on therapy to SSRIs like Celexa or in patients who have not responded well to initial treatments, or those particularly concerned about the common sexual side-effects associated with SSRIs.

Both medications come in generic form which represents significant savings for patients paying out-of-pocket. Moreover, both Buspar and Celexa may necessitate an adjustment period meaning effects might not appear immediately.

In terms of side effects profiles, both medications are usually well-tolerated although some differences exist; Buspar has less risk of weight gain and sexual dysfunction compared to SSRI's like Celexa. As with any medication focused on managing mood disorders, it's crucial for patients starting treatment to monitor their moods closely and seek immediate medical help if there’s any worsening of symptoms or emergence of suicidal thoughts.