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Do Anxiety Meds Cause Weight Gain

Stay Active And Nourished

Why do you gain weight with antidepressants and mood stabilizers?

One of the best ways to keep stress levels under control is to stay active and nourished. Staying active will help you avoid gaining weight. The key is to find an activity that is right for you.

For example, if youre more of an outdoorsy person, try learning a new hiking trail or rock climbing. If you prefer staying inside, try taking up a new hobby like painting or knitting. You could also join a gym in order to work on your physical fitness.

Nourishment should also be considered when it comes to staying active and combating anxiety. Stay away from foods that are high in sugar and fat content and instead enjoy plenty of fruits and vegetables along with whole grains, lean protein sources, healthy fats, and dairy products.

What You Can Do

Psychiatrist and addiction expert Michael McGee, MD, agrees that weight gain is a real problem with many of the medications he prescribes. “Women get especially concerned about it,” admits Dr. McGee, who is also the chief medical officer at the Haven Treatment Center in California and the author of The Joy of Recovery. Some patients can eventually go off antidepressants by adopting evidence-based lifestyle interventions to prevent weight gain, he says.

“I recommend the Mediterranean diet because it has antidepressant qualities and I encourage good eating habits like eating slowly and mindfully, avoiding ‘red light’ foods with lots of added sugar or foods that are overly processed,” he explains, adding that it’s also important for patients to make friends with hunger. “Accepting that a little hunger is OK and is necessary to maintain weight.” Dr. McGee also recommends spending time in nature, becoming involved in a spiritual community and connecting with others through volunteer work or by socializing with friends.

Be sure to voice your concerns with your physician. Ask your prescribing doctor if there is more than one option and if they can recommend an antidepressant that isnt associated with weight gain. If your doctor feels the most effective medication is one that has been found to cause weight gain in some people, start taking preventative steps right away.

More on this topic


Does Serotonin Cause Weight Gain

Yes, the hormone could be linked to weight gain, but there are many other factors to consider, including your diet and exercise habits. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that acts as a mood stabilizer in the brain. When serotonin levels in the body become too low, you may experience depression or have trouble sleeping.

There are a few different medications that can help to regulate these levels of serotonin, such as Paxil. Its possible that some people may gain weight while taking Paxil because this medication increases production of serotonin in the brain, but its important to note that this is not always a possibility.

You also need to take into account any changes in your diet and exercise routines when you are on Paxil before determining if weight gain is caused by the medication.

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Are My Antidepressants Making Me Gain Weight

For millions of Americans suffering from certain types of mood disorders, such as depression, antidepressant medications can be helpfuleven lifesaving. But for roughly 25% of people who take these medications, it could also mean some unexpected pounds, which isnt so helpful for those watching their weight.

We asked Gagandeep Singh, MD, a psychiatrist at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital, to explain why certain antidepressants can cause weight gain.

While we dont fully understand why antidepressants lead to weight gain, there are confounding factors, Dr. Singh said. The first is that not all antidepressants are alike. Some can trigger changes in the brain that affect appetite and metabolism. The second is that weight gain can be impacted by a persons lifestyle and diet.

For example, when people are depressed, their appetites change. Some people will forgo food in a state of depression, while others overeat. When placed on an antidepressant, their usual appetites could change, for better or worse, and impact their waistline.

Balancing Mental And Physical Health Is Often Complicated

Anxiety And Weight Loss Medication

Even when not taking a psychiatric medication, some people with mental health disorders may already be battling overweight or obesity, says Dr. Wharton and his colleagues. Research has shown that those with mental health disorders seem to have up to 1.5 times greater odds of having obesity. ²³

In addition, the weight gain linked with antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs has been well recognized, although the experience varies and is not the same for everyone.

So how much weight gain are we talking about? In another recent study, researchers looked at the weight status of 362 patients taking an antidepressant medication for six to 36 months. More than half of them gained weight, with 40% of individuals gaining at least 7% of their starting weight. The only drug of the eight psych medications evaluated in the study not linked with weight gain was fluoxetine . The study did not have funding from pharmaceutical companies.

The links between weight gain and medications have been shown to differ by medication type, says J. Michael Gonzalez-Campoy, MD, PhD, FACE, medical director and CEO of the Minnesota Center for Obesity, Metabolism and Endocrinology.

“In general, the use of antipsychotic medications are most often associated with weight gain,” Dr. Gonzalez-Campoy tells EndocrineWeb“In general, the use of antidepressants is associated with more modest weight gainwith the exception of fluoxetine and bupropion , which appear to be weight neutral.”

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Anxiety Can Make It Harder To Make Healthy Food Choices

It can sometimes be difficult to focus on whats best for you when your brain and body are screaming at you about everything under the sun.

People with anxiety may have a hard time making decisions about what to eat, resulting in them eating more unhealthy food, Chait says.

Its also much easier to lose track of what youre eating when youre feeling anxious. That distracted eating can add up to extra pounds.

Similarly, anxiety can cause people to be distracted, which may cause them to eat aimlessly, paying less attention to what theyre eating or how much theyre eating, Chait says.

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What Are The Different Types Of Psychiatric Medications

There are five main types of psychiatric prescription medications: antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics , mood stabilizers, and stimulants. Stimulants are not likely to cause weight gain. In fact, many of them reduce appetite and can cause weight loss as a side effect. These medications will not be discussed in this post.

Antidepressants can be divided into separate classes:

  • SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, increase serotonin levels in the brain.
  • SNRIs, or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, increase both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.
  • TCAs, or tricyclic antidepressants, increase serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the brain.
  • MAOIs, or monoamine oxidase inhibitors, increase serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain.

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Anxiety Can Reduce Your Appetite

Have you ever been so worried about an assignment or chore that youve worked right through lunch? Or stewed in your room for hours on end about a particular problem before realizing that youve lost a whole chunk of time without eating?

There may well be stress hormones behind your lost appetite. A research review found that your body produces a hormone called corticotropin-releasing factor that messes with your desire to eat.

Eating less food while your metabolism is potentially amped up could mean that you start shedding a few pounds.

Anxiety doesnt only chip away at the pounds. It can be just as likely to trigger changes that increase your body mass.

Ask Your Doctor About Switching To A Medication That Doesnt Cause Weight Gain

How psychiatric drugs can cause weight gain

If you need psychotropic medication, talk with your doctor and pharmacist about switching to a medication that isnt known to cause weight gain. If your medication is anxiety-related, overcoming anxiety disorder will eliminate your need for medication. When you have done sufficient work in overcoming your anxiety issues and believe you are ready to stop your medication, you can slowly taper off. Being free of the psychotropic medication will eliminate the side effect of weight gain.

Overall, addressing your anxiety issues is the most important of the above remedies. Eliminating your anxiety issues will substantially reduce your bodys overall stress load. As your bodys stress diminishes, it will cease to be a factor in gaining weight.

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How Can I Lose Weight While On Antidepressants

Losing weight is often a struggle, especially when a person is also living with a mood disorder. The causes are multiple. Increased appetite and carbohydrate craving, along with reduced activity level, are common symptoms of depression. And yes, certain antidepressants and other medications may increase appetite. However, most medications do not alter metabolism, per se. Thus, weight loss can still occur when attention is given to other factors, including the composition and timing of dietary intake.

Eating more frequently and smaller amounts, increasing the relative amount of protein eaten , reducing breads and starches, eating a healthful breakfast, and avoiding large meals or snacks late in the evening can provide a more balanced diet throughout the entire day.

If one believes their current efforts to lose weight should be more productive, a consultation with a nutritionist may be helpful. If that isnt possible, keeping a written log of ones consumption may provide clues to problem areas and reinforce better dietary habits. In particular, check out the nutritional content of commonly eaten foods and foods believed to be healthy.

Chronic, low-grade sleep deprivation is another contributor to obesity. Skipping sleep leads to persistently elevated levels of the bodys stress hormone, which can cause elevated blood sugar levels and increased fat stores. Staying up late may also make one more prone to late night snacking.

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Why Ssris Cause Weight Gain

Experts aren’t certain why SSRIs have the potential to cause weight gain, but there are some theories. It may be that the drugs trigger changes in metabolism that cause the body to use calories less efficiently, or that they affect the appetite, leading to overeating.

Another hypothesis is that weight gained while taking an SSRI may be partially due to the fact that some people don’t feel like eating when they’re depressed and may lose weight. Once they start taking an antidepressant, however, they begin to feel better and as a result, their appetite may come back, they may eat more, and eventually return to their previous weight.

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Does Wellbutrin Cause Weight Loss

Long-term Wellbutrin treatment may support modest weight loss in normal weight or overweight people who have been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder. In one study, those who took Wellbutrin for six months lost an average of 2 pounds more than those who received a placebo.

Recent studies indicate that 23% of people on a Wellbutrin XL dose of 150 to 300 mg per day lost at least 5 pounds after using the medication for six months or more. The same study showed that 11% of people taking Wellbutrin XL dose of 150 to 300 mg per day gained more than 5 pounds after 6 months or more.

Both Wellbutrin XL and Wellbutrin SR cause weight loss in varying degrees. The dosage and the duration of taking the medication determine the weight that will be lost or gained.

The reason why Wellbutrin causes weight loss in some people is not known. However, as compared to a placebo after 8 weeks Wellbutrin increases the chance of weight loss.

Antidepressants Cause Minimal Weight Gain

Bitter pill: What to do when your meds cause weight gain

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Antidepressants have helped millions of people cut through the dark fog of depression. Many others try these medications but stop taking them, often because of side effects such as weight gain. A study from a Harvard-based team shows that the amount gained is usually small, and that it differs little from one antidepressant to another.

Earlier studies linking antidepressant use to weight gain were usually small and short. This one, led by researchers with Massachusetts General Hospitals Center for Experimental Drugs and Diagnostics, included more than 19,000 men and women and lasted for a year.

The researchers chose citalopram as a reference, because earlier studies suggested that it is average when it comes to weight gain. In this study, the weight gain experienced by people taking citalopram averaged one to two pounds. Compared to citalopram, the weight gain linked to other antidepressants was small.

Not everyone taking antidepressants gained weight. Some actually lost a few pounds.

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Why Lexapro Causes Weight Gain

A person taking Lexapro may experience some weight gain, especially with long-term use. That risk may continue for up to six years. There are many reasons for why this may occur.

One of Lexapro’s weight gain mechanisms is that it increases serotonin levels, and serotonin plays a role in weight control.

Additionally, Lexapro may increase a persons appetite, which usually leads to eating more and gaining weight. People who take some of the newer antidepressants, including Lexapro, may have a slightly higher rate of weight gain.

Thyroid Conditions And Weight Loss

It should be noted that one of the few causes of anxiety that is purely physical is the development of hyperthyroid. With too much thyroid hormone, your metabolism is too fast and this can cause rapid weight loss. Hyperthyroidism may also be a cause of anxiety.

Thats why, even though anxiety is often the cause of unexplained weight loss in people living with anxiety, its still a good idea to check with a doctor. There are many simple tests to rule out hyperthyroidism.

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What Types Of Antidepressants Are Available

There are many different types of antidepressants available.

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are also frequently prescribed, including venlafaxine , duloxetine , and desvenlafaxine .

Bupropion, as weve discussed, is an NDRI, so it works a little differently than the more standard SSRIs and SNRIs.

Other types of antidepressants include tricyclic antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors. These tend to cause worse side effects, so theyre not generally the first treatment your provider will try.

What Causes Antidepressants To Cause Weight Gain

My Experience with Antidepressants and Weight gain | Zoloft, Wellbutrin, and Lexapro

Weight gain is a common side effect of many antidepressants. The primary reason for this weight gain is an increase in serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood, sleep, appetite, and feelings of well-being.

There are two main reasons why antidepressants cause weight gain:

  • Increase in appetite caused by an increase in serotonin in the brain
  • Increased cravings for carbohydrates and sugary foods such as candy, pasta, bread, among others

One of the ways it can do this is by increasing appetite and cravings for food. These cravings are the result of serotonins ability to influence your brains pleasure centers. This means that if serotonin levels increase too much, they can lead to weight gain rather than weight loss, as you might assume.

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Why Is Paxil Rarely Prescribed

Paxil is a medication that has been approved by the FDA to treat depression. This drug has become less and less prescribed in recent years due to research showing that it can cause a number of side effects, including weight gain.

Paxil is not going to be the best option for you if you are looking for something to combat a lack of appetite or weight loss. In fact, this drug causes the opposite effect. If you start taking Paxil, chances are good that you will gain weight and experience other side effects.

S To Avoid Weight Gain When Starting A Psych Medication

Asking for a referral to a qualified weight loss program in your area is a good idea, says Dr. McGee. What else?

  • Focus on what and how you eat

  • Don’t eat for gratification, boredom, or self-soothing or overeat to punish yourself

  • Discuss whether weight loss medicines, in addition to the structured weight loss program, may be appropriate, at least to start.

According to Dr. Gonzalez-Campoy, ”along with a prescription for antipsychotic medications and most antidepressants, a concomitant prescription for weight management should be provided .”

And for those on antipsychotics, you should be made aware of the health risks that come with significant weight gain such as the development or worsening of high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, he says. These are medical issues that should be monitored as well, he says.

The bottom lineFor anyone who is taking an antidepressant or antipsychotic medication: “Taking these medications is very important,” Ms. Christensen says. “Don’t be concerned about the potential weight gain because that can be mitigated .”

None of the healthcare practitioners had relevant financial conflicts with regard to this study.

  • Moore TJ, Mattison, DR. Adult Utilization of Psychiatric Drugs and Differences by Sex, Age, and Race. JAMA Intern Med. 2017: 177:274-275.
  • Simon GE, Von Korff M, Saunders K, et al. Association between obesity and psychiatric disorders in the US adult population. Archives of General Psychiatry 2006 63:824-830.
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    Do You Lose Weight After Stopping Paxil

    It is impossible to say for sure whether your Paxil will cause you to lose weight and how much. If you stop taking Paxil, then your weight may go down if you also have a decreased calorie intake.However, it is important to note that your Paxil dosage may not be the only reason you are gaining or losing weight in general. If you stop taking Paxil, then your doctor will lower your dosage gradually so that you dont experience any symptoms of withdrawal, such as nausea and headaches.The best part about stopping antidepressants? You can often identify the root cause of whatever symptoms you were experiencing before taking the drug and fix them by following your doctors instructions.

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