Most people that are depressed end up trying antidepressants. One major problem associated with these medications is that while they may alleviate depression, they can cause people to gain a significant amount of weight. Due to the weight gain associated with SSRIs, people are searching for alternatives so that they don’t become fat from taking a medication.
Although minor weight gain is certainly favorable to feeling suicidal and depressed, some people gain more than just a few pounds. The weight gain can create an entirely new self-image problem for the person. Gaining weight may cause a person to lose confidence and actually may contribute to them feeling depressed again.
It is estimated that people gain up to 10 pounds following a 6 month treatment with common antidepressants. So you are probably wondering which antidepressants are linked to weight loss? I’m going to breakdown the drugs that are associated with weight loss as well as those that tend to be “weight neutral” meaning a person won’t gain or drop a significant amount of weight while taking the drug.
Antidepressants that cause weight loss: Wellbutrin (Bupropion)
There is really only one of the popular antidepressants these days that is linked to weight loss. The medication that you’ll want if you want to actually lose weight is that of Wellbutrin. It will speed up your metabolism, and increase your energy. This is because it works as an NDRI (norpinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor). Really the only major unfortunate side effect is that you may feel increasingly anxious and you may not get much relief if your serotonin imbalance is the problem.
Wellbutrin (Bupropion) – Wellbutrin often suppresses appetite in certain individuals as well as gives them more energy for working out. This can be a good thing if the person is already overweight. This is a drug that is also used for some people who are clinically obese because it helps speed up their metabolism and gives them energy to do things. This drug also speeds up the metabolic system in your body – which will lead to increases in calories burned.
Other antidepressants that cause weight loss typically do not inhibit the reuptake of serotonin. So if your goal is to avoid gaining weight, you’ll usually want to find a drug that primarily affects norepinephrine and serotonin to a lesser degree. Wellbutrin is considered one of the safer antidepressants in comparison to most SSRI’s which are associated with difficult withdrawals.
Weight neutral antidepressants: SNRI’s + Viibryd
There are a few antidepressants that aren’t linked to weight gain or loss. Meaning that some people will gain weight on them, others will lose weight on them, and some will stay pretty much the same weight on them. These are SNRIs which work by preventing the reuptake of both serotonin and norepinephrine. Another antidepressant that should be mentioned is that of Viibryd – a newer medication. Many people that take Viibryd tend to lose weight simply because it acts as a great laxative – meaning diarrhea is a very common side effect.
Also just because these medications are medically regarded as being “weight neutral” doesn’t mean you won’t gain or lose weight while taking them – they affect everyone differently. Some people may gain a significant amount of weight on any of these medications, while others may drop a few pounds.
Antidepressants that cause weight gain: SSRI’s
The SSRI (selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor) class will cause most people to gain weight. Some have been suggested as being “worse” than others for weight. Many people regard Paxil as being the easiest to gain weight on, but there are cases of individuals gaining weight on all of these medications. Medications that are geared primarily towards preventing the reuptake of serotonin tend to yield more weight gain than other classes of drugs.
- Celexa (Citalopram)
- Lexapro (Escitalopram)
- Paxil (Paroxetine)
- Prozac (Fluoxetine)
- Zoloft (Sertraline)
SSRIs tend to increase a person’s appetite while decreasing the individual’s metabolism. So no matter how healthy the person is eating and how much they are working out, they are going to pack on a few pounds. For more information, read “Antidepressants and Weight Gain.”
Best antidepressant for weight loss: Wellbutrin (Bupropion)
Although there are older antidepressants that may cause a person to lose weight, most are associated with weight gain with the exception of Wellbutrin. For this reason, if weight is a big concern, I would recommend trying this particular medication before others. It tends to have less side effects than other drugs and is easier tolerated. When it comes to losing weight from taking an antidepressant, this may contribute to improving your mood.
With that said, your goal shouldn’t be to get on Wellbutrin just to lose weight. This is a powerful drug that should be avoided unless you absolutely need it for depression. The weight loss is a secondary benefit that you may experience if you are overweight. Not everyone experiences weight loss even while taking Wellbutrin – everyone reacts differently to medications. Although extremely rare, some people have noticed weight gain on Wellbutrin.
Final thoughts: Antidepressants and weight fluctuation
Unless you can say that you are in peak physical condition before starting medication, you could lose or gain weight while on any medication. For example, take someone who is ridiculously obese, put them on an SSRI and let’s say it increases their energy level. If the SSRI works well and the person never exercised before and starts exercising, they are likely still going to lose weight.
Additionally someone who starts eating healthier and/or exercising while on an SSRI may actually experience weight loss if they never were healthy before the drug. Each situation is so unique and different that it’s impossible to know how you will be affected. Someone in peak physical shape may find that an SSRI makes them lazy and they may gain a decent amount of fat.
This is simply because when you are already in good shape with a lot of lean mass, and you are on an antidepressant, it’s going to throw your body out of homeostasis – making it harder to convert fat to muscle and maintain a high metabolism. The nice thing is that even if you do gain weight from an antidepressant, you will lose it relatively easily after you stop the medication.