Weight Gain Due To Antidepressants: Causes And Treatment

Reviewed by Ritika Dass, MSc (Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics)
By Aparna Mallampalli, BEd (Biological Sciences), MSc (Microbiology), Diploma In Nutrition

The role of antidepressants in treating depression is crucial. But weight gain due to antidepressants is a major side effect that many people may face. Weight gain is also associated with food habits, sleep duration, lifestyle, and exercise.

But if you observe a weight gain while on antidepressants and worry about it, there is great news for you. This weight can be managed and reversed if you follow certain measures. Keep reading to know what they are and what you need to do for effective weight loss.

How Do Antidepressants Cause Weight Gain?

A study conducted in the UK links the use of antidepressants to long-term increased risk of weight gain (1).

SSRIs are antidepressants that inhibit the functioning of serotonin (a chemical produced in the brain that affects the way you feel). This may cause weight gain in the presence of a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and a Western diet (2).

Diet plays a key role in losing weight after antidepressant use. We take you through the dietary changes you can make in the next section. Read on!

Role Of Diet In Reversing Weight Gain Due To Antidepressants

The weight gain caused by antidepressants may be reversible to some extent. A diet high in fruit and vegetables may help you lose and maintain weight. A study suggests that substituting carbohydrates and fat with protein and increasing the intake of low-fat dairy may help in losing weight (3). Hence, maintaining a healthy diet is crucial. But, consult a doctor before starting a new diet.

Maintaining a proper diet to lose weight is only a job half done. It should always be complemented with physical exercise. Keep scrolling to know more.

Role Of Exercise In Reversing Weight Gain Due To Antidepressants

Exercise plays a key role in not only losing weight but also maintaining it. Research suggests that people who exercise twice or thrice a week experience significantly lesser depression, anger, and stress (4).

You can start your exercise regimen by walking, a 15-minute jog, brisk walking, and yoga. Gradually increase the exercise duration, which will help you maintain the lost weight. An hour of exercising (especially in the morning) may help boost your mood. However, make sure you also follow a balanced diet.

A few antidepressants may cause weight gain during or after treatment. Let’s have a look at the common antidepressants that may cause weight gain.

Common Antidepressants That May Cause Weight Gain

1. Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

A few examples of TCAs are:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Nortriptyline
  • Imipramine
  • Desipramine
  • Dosulepin
  • Doxepin
  • Clomipramine

Use of TCAs may lead to a minor weight gain between 1 and 5 kg (5).

2. Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

A few types of MAOIs that may cause an upswing in weight include:

  • Isocarboxazid
  • Phenelzine
  • Tranylcypromine
  • Moclobemide

Use of MAOIs may result in a weight gain of 1-5 kg (5).

3. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs may result in weight gain when they are taken for extended durations.

The commonly used SSRIs are:

  • Citalopram
  • Fluoxetine
  • Paroxetine
  • Sertraline
  • Escitalopram

Use of SSRIs may increase bodyweight by 1 to 5 kg (5).

4. Serotonin And Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

This class of antidepressants is also used to treat anxiety and chronic pain (long term), specifically nerve pain.

A few examples of SNRIs are:

  • Duloxetin
  • Venlafaxine
  • Levomilnacipran
  • Milnacipran
  • Desvenlafaxine

Use of SNRIs may see bodyweight go up by 1-2 kg (5).

5. Other Antidepressants

Use of the antidepressants listed below for extended periods may induce weight gain:

  • Trazodone
  • Nefazodone
  • Mirtazapine
  • Maprotiline
  • Mianserin

These medications may make your bodyweight shoot up by 1-5 kg (5).

Depression is hard to deal with. But, the right medication can help you combat it effectively. However, you should also consider other options that may help you deal with depression. Read on to know more!

Other Options For Treating Depression

1. Yoga

Research suggests that yoga is an effective option for reducing depression (6). Start by doing basic asanas for a few minutes a day before moving to more advanced poses and increasing the duration slowly.

2. Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses essential oils that are applied to the skin or inhaled. It has the potential to ease the symptoms of depression. Aromatherapy massage has been shown to be more beneficial than inhalation aromatherapy for treating depression (7).

3. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy (talk therapy) involves talking to a therapist regularly. It is a reliable treatment option for people with mild to moderate major depression. In fact, it has been found to be just as effective as antidepressants in these cases (8).

Is there a way for people who are on antidepressants to avoid weight gain?  We discuss this in the next section.

How To Avoid Weight Gain When Taking Antidepressant Medication

1. Follow Timely Eating

Planning and timely eating of meals help avoid unnecessary calorie intake. Research shows that this can effectively help manage obesity and maintain weight (9). Plan your meals a day in advance and avoid binging on processed or ready-to-eat foods.

2. Include More Protein In Your Diet

Antidepressants may increase hunger and induce craving for carbohydrates (10). Taking more dietary protein may significantly promote weight loss, satiety, beneficial changes in body composition, and reduce food cravings (11). Hence, include protein sources like peanut butter, soy, tofu, chickpeas, and lentils in your meals.

3. Get Sound Sleep

Sleep deprivation may lead to weight gain (12). Therefore, sleeping for a minimum of 8 hours may prevent this change in weight. Avoid daytime naps as it they can affect the sleep quality during the night. If you are habituated to daytime naps, make sure their duration is less than 20 minutes. Also, do not take more than two naps a day.

4. Exercise Regularly

Exercising regularly helps accelerate weight loss, maintain weight, and promote overall health (13). Try switching between different exercises like brisk walking, steps climbing, and jogging to avoid monotony. Start with simple exercises and slowly extend their duration.

5. Increase Fluid Intake

Adequate fluid intake may support weight loss by promoting lipolysis (fat loss) and decreasing food intake (14). But, avoid drinking store-bought fruit juices as they are filled with sugar. But, avoid drinking store-bought fruit juices as they are filled with sugar. Instead, try fresh buttermilk, coconut water, fresh juices, and infused waters with lemon, cucumber, or berries. Although some antidepressants might promote weight gain, they are often effective in treating depression. Common antidepressants that may lead to weight gain include SSRIs, MAOs, TCAs, and SNRIs. However, you can partially reverse this weight gain by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. It is also feasible to prevent weight gain due to antidepressants by following some simple guidelines such as eating on time, eating enough protein, getting adequate sleep, doing daily exercise, properly hydrating the body, and avoiding junk and processed food. Before making any changes to your medicines, diet, or physical activity, speak with your doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you take fat burners while on antidepressants?

After stopping the use of antidepressants, your body slowly readjusts to the change. You may see slight weight loss. However, it should be coupled with a healthy diet and an active lifestyle to speed up weight loss.

Do appetite suppressants work with antidepressants?

Maybe not. Appetite suppressants control your hunger pangs. However, they may interfere with the activity of your antidepressants. Consult your doctor before taking any supplements.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you take fat burners while on antidepressants?

Maybe not. Fat burners increase your resting metabolic rate. However, the ingredients in these supplements may interfere with the activity of your antidepressants. Consult your doctor before taking any supplements.

Do appetite suppressants work with antidepressants?

Maybe not. Appetite suppressants control your hunger pangs. However, they may interfere with the activity of your antidepressants. Consult your doctor before taking any supplements.

Key Takeaways

  • Weight gain due to antidepressants is one of their major side effects.
  • You may gain weight, especially if you smoke and follow a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet.
  • According to a study, increasing protein intake and limiting carbs and fats help shed some kilos.
  • However, an hour of exercise daily is mandatory to witness desired results.

References:

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Antidepressant utilization and incidence of weight gain during 10 years’ follow-up: population-based cohort study
    https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k1951
  2. SSRI antidepressant use potentiates weight gain in the context of unhealthy lifestyles: results from a 4-year Australian follow-up study
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5629701/
  3. Dietary intakes associated with successful weight loss and maintenance during the Weight Loss Maintenance Trial
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3225890/
  4. Physical exercise and psychological well-being: a population study in Finland
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10642456/
  5. Drugs That Affect Body Weight, Body Fat Distribution, and Metabolism
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537590/
  6. The Efficacy of Yoga as a Form of Treatment for Depression
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5871291/
  7. The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy for Depressive Symptoms: A Systematic Review
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5241490/
  8. Managing depression in primary care
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5563525/
  9. Timing of Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Effects on Obesity and Metabolic Risk
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6893547/
  10. Body Weight Changes Associated With Psychopharmacology
    https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ps.53.7.842
  11. Increased Dietary Protein as a Dietary Strategy to Prevent and/or Treat Obesity
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC6179508/
  12. Sleep and obesity
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC3632337/
  13. Physical Activity Plays an Important Role in Body Weight Regulation
    https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jobe/2011/360257/
  14. Increased Hydration Can Be Associated with Weight Loss
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4901052/
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Aparna is a professor-turned-content writer with over 5 years of experience in life sciences. Her passion for writing and interest... more

Ritika Dass

(PGDDPHN )
Ritika Dass is a senior clinical nutritionist with more than 8 years of experience in analyzing the nutritional needs of... more

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