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Lexapro and Weight Gain: Causes & Contributing Factors

Lexapro (Escitalopram) is a drug classified as an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). It functions by increasing extracellular levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. The increase in serotonin is believed to be the mechanism by which this drug is capable of treating major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. It received FDA approval in 2002 for treating depression and 2003 for anxiety.

It is considered the successor to the drug Celexa in that it contains only the active S-stereoisomer. Some believe that Lexapro is superior in efficacy and tolerability due to the fact that it doesn’t contain the inactive stereoisomer. Others believe that both drugs are relatively equal in efficacy, but Lexapro makes more sense to prescribe simply because it is newer and a revised version of an older drug.

Lexapro and Weight Gain

Lexapro is a drug that may work extremely well to treat major depression and anxiety, but unfortunately it is not free of side effects. One common side effect that people dislike is that of weight gain. While not everyone will gain weight if they use the drug for a short period of time. Nearly everyone who uses the drug over a long-term is virtually guaranteed to gain some weight.

How Lexapro Causes Weight Gain: Possibilities to Consider

There are a variety of ways in which Lexapro may be causing you to gain weight. Many people buy-in to the theory that it slows your metabolism. However, others believe that it could be slowing metabolism and creating other hormonal changes as well as alter the way in which your body stores fat. Understand that while none of these possibilities have been scientifically proven, many are believed to be accurate.

  • Appetite changes: Many people experience appetite changes when they take a psychotropic drug. Those who had a poor appetite as a result of depression or anxiety may notice their appetite increases during treatment with Lexapro. It is common for someone who previously ate poorly to begin eating regularly after the drug starts working. Although not everyone will experience an increased appetite from the drug, some people definitely do.
  • Carb cravings: Have you noticed that you crave carbohydrates since you’ve been on Lexapro? The fact that this drug increases serotonin and carbohydrates are linked to serotonin, this could explain the increased cravings. Others may experience general food cravings for unhealthy things like refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, and pastas.
  • Drug interaction: If you are taking another medication in addition to Lexapro, it is possible that the two medications could be interacting. The interaction effect could make it more likely that you’ll gain weight compared to if you were taking just one of the drugs. Be sure to always consider that the drugs could be working synergistically to cause weight gain.
  • Fat storage: The mechanism by which your body stores fat may become altered when you take this medication. Some believe that after awhile on Lexapro, the way your body digests food and stores fat changes. This makes it more likely that fat will get stored in places you probably won’t like such as: stomach, chest, and hips.
  • Hormone levels: Some speculate that over an extended period of being medicated, your hormone levels change. The change in certain hormones could account for any weight that you gain. An example would be if the hormone cortisol increased throughout your treatment – this results in increased fat storage. Other hormones that help burn fat may decrease, resulting in the weight gain.
  • Laziness: After awhile of taking Lexapro, some people experience a drop in energy and motivation that leads to laziness. While it isn’t the person’s fault that the drug sapped their energy, it may explain why some people end up gaining weight after months of treatment. Not everyone will experience this energy drop, but it can be difficult to deal with for those that do.
  • Side effects: Some individuals may be plagued by side effects such as sleepiness and increased fatigue. The increase in fatigue may make it very difficult to get proper exercise and burn calories. Those who feel fatigued may end up lying around more than usual and sleeping more frequently – which will lead to weight gain.
  • Slow metabolism: One of the most common theories as to why people gain weight on Lexapro is that it causes metabolism to slow. The exact mechanism behind the slowed metabolism is unknown, but many people find out that if they keep their diet and exercise the same while taking the drug as they did prior to taking it, that they gain weight.
  • Social eating: It’s always possible that a person is simply going out to eat with friends more frequently than when they were depressed. Going out to eat often is an easy way to over-eat, eat unhealthy, and gain weight. If you have been going out to eat more since taking Lexapro, understand that this aspect could be contributing to weight gain.
  • Taste improves: Some people may notice that food starts to taste considerably better while taking Lexapro than it did prior to treatment. It is thought that the drug changes our neurochemistry, making certain foods taste better than they normally would.

Note: It is important to also consider that for each case of weight gain on Lexapro, it could result from an interplay between these factors. It is also likely subject to considerable variation in regards to whether someone experiences an appetite increase, engages in social eating, and/or experiences fatigue as a side effect.

Factors that influence weight gain on Lexapro

There are other factors that will influence the amount of weight you’ll gain from taking Lexapro. These include things like the dosage you’ve been taking, your lifestyle and habits, how long you’ve been medicated, and whether you’re taking other drugs.

1. Dosage

In most cases, people are prescribed a dose ranging from 10 mg to 20 mg. It has been found that for most people, doses over 20 mg fail to offer any additional therapeutic effect. Those that are taking doses near the higher end of the spectrum (i.e. 20 mg) are more likely to gain weight than those taking 10 mg or less.

As a rule of thumb, keep in mind that the lower the dose, the better in terms of weight gain. Those that take high doses of a medication essentially are giving the drug more control over their physiology than at lower doses. At high doses the drug tends to make further alterations to your homeostatic functioning and may slow your metabolism to a greater extent than lower doses.

Note: This is why it is recommended to take the “minimal effective dose” of any drug. By taking the minimal effective amount, you decrease the likelihood of experiencing significant weight gain.

2. Individual factors

In most cases, it’s easy to make Lexapro the scapegoat that you blamed for any weight gain while taking the drug. That said, it is important to take responsibility for aspects of your life that you control. If you are eating an unhealthy diet, not getting much exercise, and aren’t getting enough sleep at night – this is a recipe for weight gain in and of itself.

Those that gain more weight than average while taking this medication may not be taking good care of themselves. Understand that everyone is different and will have differing physiological and genetic reactions to the Lexapro. Some people may have a more stressful job, others may have different hormone levels, and others may have a naturally slower metabolism that gets markedly slower while on this drug.

Take responsibility for the aspects of your functioning that you can and try not to place full blame on the drug for your weight gain. You can also consider getting a genetic test called “GeneSight” which may help predict how you’ll react (in terms of side effects) to this drug.

3. Time span

The longer you’ve been medicated, the more likely it is that you’ll gain weight. Those that have taken Lexapro for between 6 and 12 months are at the greatest risk for packing on weight. If you’ve only taken the drug for less than 6 months, you may not experience any weight gain (or you may even end up losing weight).

The longer the period of time over which you’ve taken Lexapro, the more changes it will have made to your physiology. Your nervous system becomes tolerant to its effects and accommodates its presence, sometimes at the expense of homeostatic processes that regulate weight. It should also be mentioned that when people take a drug for a long period of time, they often increase the dosage – which was already mentioned to increase weight gain.

4. Other medications/drugs

If you take other medications or drugs of any kind, it is important to realize that there could be a potential interaction effect. The Lexapro may be interacting with the other medication to amplify the amount of weight you gain throughout treatment. In other cases, the two drugs may not have a synergistic effect upon weight, but may both be contributing to small, incremental increases in weight. Other times only one drug is causing the weight gain and you’ll probably be able to pinpoint it (unless you started both drugs at the same time).

How much weight will you gain from Lexapro?

There’s no telling exactly how much weight you’ll gain from Lexapro. As was mentioned above, there are a number of individual factors that will be highly influential over your weight. Most researchers speculate that on average, only 25% of people who take antidepressants gain weight. Additionally they have stated that most people only gain about 10 lbs. throughout their entire course of treatment.

However, evidence suggests that those on the drug for a long term and/or at higher doses will gain greater amounts of weight. The amount of weight people gain from these medications is often underreported and not typically studied; drug companies and doctors want their patients to believe that they won’t gain much weight.

Does everyone gain weight while taking Lexapro?

Certainly not everyone will gain weight while taking this drug. Some people may experience weight loss and others may not notice any change in weight. Those who lose weight may have been lethargic as a result of their depression and this drug gives them extra energy to exercise and/or engage in some sort of physical activity. It is estimated that 1 out of 4 people gain weight from taking this drug and other SSRIs. The number of people who gain weight likely increases significantly among those who have been on the drug for a longer term.

Lexapro: Cost-Benefit Analysis

When taking any drug, you should always conduct some sort of cost-benefit analysis. Compare the severity of the costs (i.e. weight gain) with the benefits that you’ve gotten from taking the medication. If the costs associated with taking the drug are minor (e.g. a little weight gain), it may not be a big deal as long as the drug is working well.

If the Lexapro isn’t working very well though, and you are experiencing weight gain, it may be time to reevaluate this treatment. In some cases you may want to switch medications and/or consider Lexapro withdrawal if the costs significantly outweigh the benefits.

Did you gain weight while taking Lexapro?

Those that gained weight from taking Lexapro can share their experience in the comments section below. Sharing your experience may help someone else who is currently dealing with the weight that they’ve gained as a result of treatment. Be sure to mention how much weight you gained, the dosage you took, as well as how long you were taking it. If you can think of any other possible contributing factors such as increased stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, etc. – feel free to discuss them.

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{ 100 comments… add one }
  • Elle June 19, 2018, 12:19 pm

    I think it’s ridiculous that doctors keep saying it won’t make you gain weight and when you tell them it does they have this shocked look on their face. My own mother is a psychiatrist and did the same thing.

    I took 20mg for about a year and gained more weight than I had in my entire life. I’d rather be anxious all the time and keep my confidence. I’ve heard that Wellbutrin doesn’t cause weight gain, but after this who knows. Won’t be trying it. Bye lexapro.

  • Bryan March 28, 2018, 9:00 am

    I just turned 50 March 21, 2018. When I started I weighed 185 at 6’2. My perfect weight. I still do Crossfit 3x a week and circuit training 2x a week and my diet is compliant so no dairy, no bread, no pastas and no sugar unless naturally from fruit. My doctor started me on the smallest dosage of Lexapro possible 5 mg in June of 2017.

    I now weigh the most I have ever weighed in my life, approximately 195. THIS WILL NOT DO. I met with my doctor and complained of weight gain, lack of energy during workouts, wanting to stay in bed and lounge on weekends, etc. I started about 2 weeks ago at her suggestion cutting the 5mg in half and taking 2.5 mg.

    A week ago I started taking that dosage every other day and plan on stopping completely by the end of this coming weekend, in 4 days. Fingers crossed. Can’t deal with the lack of energy and weight gain. Other than that, it was a blessing to help me get through crisis mode. Enough. Bye Lexapro.

  • Kirsten March 26, 2018, 4:06 am

    I was put on Lexapro 10 MG for postpartum anxiety following the birth of my second child. I’ve always been an active, energetic person – I’ve functioned with GAD for most of my life. Within a few days of taking Lexapro, I started getting tired.

    I stayed on the 10 MG for 20 months, and over that time, went from being active to spending my days lying on the couch. I stopped exercising, and could barely convince myself to watch the kids. I wrote off showers, cleaning, anything that required energy or effort.

    To top this off, I had sugar cravings unlike any I had ever experienced. I’ve always had a varied diet, reasonably healthy. On Lexapro, I craved high-fat sugars from the time I woke up until I went to sleep. I have no idea how much weight I gained – I’m too embarrassed to look at the scale.

    All I know is that in the 20 months I was on Lexapro, I gained back at least half of the pregnancy weight I had lost after my second son was born…probably 20 lbs. I could eat a McDonald’s breakfast with a large cola and want food an hour later.

    After dinner, I would crave an entire bag of Haribo gummy bears…and then still want more sugars. It was ridiculous. I weaned down to 5 MG and then off entirely a few months later.

    The anxiety has come back, but it’s a small price to pay for having energy, wanting to eat well and be a healthy role model for my kids. I firmly believe that had I continued on that path, the sugar cravings would have set me up for some big health problems down the road.

  • Nesa February 19, 2018, 8:35 pm

    Been on this for under a year but in that time I’ve gained 30 lbs… I don’t care if I eat right and workout or get lazy as this med has made me – I eat ok – 3 meals a day – and before this med I can eat crappy and still lose – with this I just gain on a daily. I might go down 2 lbs here and there but it comes right back with a vengeance.

  • Michelle January 26, 2018, 11:01 pm

    I have been on 20mg Lexapro for about 15 months and I am the biggest that I have ever been. I have always had issues with my weight but it is out of control now. I have had to buy new clothes over and over again because I keep out growing everything.

    It seems that I do great at the gym for about a week and then just end up sitting at home doing nothing because I have no motivation anymore. I realize my weight gain and get depressed about it but it’s like an “oh well” emotion. When I started Lexapro I weighed 140 and was a size 6…

    Now I’m weighing in at 229 lbs. Mentally my anxiety has vanished but I feel depressed and down all the time with little to no energy. I could sleep the whole day away if given the opportunity. I’ve been skipping my meds and I too feel almost drunk or hungover when walking or moving my head.

    Awful headaches too. I’ve already noticed my libido returning.. I had no desire or sensation for sex and it seems to be returning.

  • Missie December 8, 2017, 4:58 pm

    I took SSRI’s for years before switching to Lexapro. I never gained a pound. I am 5’7.5″ and weighed a steady 135 from my junior year in high school to 36 years old when I started taking Lexapro. I took Lexapro for 2 years and gained 80 pounds. I was also on Wellbutrin at the time. I went from exercising 5-6 days a week to no exercise and needing a two hour nap almost every day.

    I can’t think straight either. I have always been sensitive to drugs, so I think it did a real number on me. I went to a weight-loss doctor, and he had never heard of Lexapro making people gain weight! I feel like doctors are prescribing this stuff and they really have no idea what the real effects are.

    Drug companies test this stuff for 14-30 days and make it sound in their reports like any effects that are felt during that time is all that could ever happen to people. I have been off Lexapro for nearly two years and although my weight gain stopped immediately, I was unable to lose any weight no matter how hard I tried.

    I had a gastric balloon put in by the weight loss doctor, and I have lost 15 pounds in three months. If I go off my extremely strict diet for a day or two – and by “going off” I mean 2-3 hundred extra calories – then the weight starts to creep back on. Very frustrating.

  • Katie May 31, 2017, 5:36 pm

    I gained 40 lbs on lexapro! 30 lbs within the first 8 months. Four years later, I’m finally weaning off the drug. I fought with my doctor about it causing my weight gain! They said “lexapro does NOT cause weight gain!” But after looking at all my charts, they then agreed and said it could be from the lexapro! I started craving carbs and sugar right off the bat! I had less energy and even when I would work out and eat right, I still gained.

  • Jen March 23, 2017, 4:06 am

    I had been taking 40 mg of lexapro for about 9 years. I finally decided to wean off of it after realizing my weight was really beginning to climb. I’ve always been very slim and never had any issues with keeping my weight under control. I am 5’7 1/2 and got up to 147. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot but for me, I was always 128.

    I am down to 10mg of Lexapro, which is probably where I will stay because totally stopping the meds(even after weaning for months) brought back a lot of anxiety. I am now down to 130, and I did everything the same as I was when I was on it. My weight is consistent and doesn’t fluctuate at all now. I am convinced long-term use packed it on me.

  • Colleen March 10, 2017, 1:27 am

    I have been taking this drug at 10 mg for a year and I have gained 25 pounds!!! It makes me even more depressed. I’m not doing anything different. I eat super healthy and exercise 2-3 times a week. I don’t see signs of stopping, so I’m going to go off, cold turkey.

  • beth March 6, 2017, 9:11 pm

    I am 18 years old. have been on lexapro for over 2 years. Started at 110 pounds and now weigh 145. Getting off of this because I cannot handle how depressed I am from the weight gain.

  • Sarah March 2, 2017, 4:16 pm

    I’ve been on Lexapro 20 mg for 9 months. I went from 140 lbs to 180 lbs. It really helps with my anxiety as well. However, not my appearance. I’m going to talk to my psychiatrist about this and try to wean off of it.

  • Diana February 11, 2017, 4:09 am

    I have been on lex for 3 years. I have to say that it saved my life and I am grateful. But I went from 130 to 190. My doctor said to cut my dosage in half and cut out the carbs. I am counting my calories riding my bike and attempting yoga. It’s my plan to taper off the drug altogether. It’s a tough thing but we are not alone.

  • Beth February 1, 2017, 7:28 pm

    I am 45 years old and started Lexapro 10 mg to help with anxiety and mild depression. 5’7″ and weighed 142 when I started. Just four months into it, I have gained 13 pounds and am at 155. I’ve also been exercising a lot more (cardio, mild weight training) and eating healthier.

    I do not have cravings, nor am I eating more sweets or carbs. I cannot explain it. Very odd and this is the heaviest I’ve been without being pregnant. The good news is, I feel great – happy, peaceful and can think clearly. I just have to figure out how to stop gaining and get back into the clothes that no longer fit me!

  • Kennedy January 31, 2017, 10:22 am

    I have always been fairly small. I didn’t know how, but I started gaining weight fast. I did not change my eating habits, and I exercise like I use to before I started taking Lexapro. I went from weighing 127 to weighing 165. I did not know how I was gaining the weight…

    I have been on Lexapro for about 4-5 years now and my weight keeps changing. Before I started Lexapro it took me forever to get to that 127. I use to sit at 105-110. My doctor instructed me to gain weight because I was under weight. I was fine with weighting 127, but when I got on Lexapro and it started to get out of control I became frustrated!

    I still didn’t know how I was gaining so much weight! I finally did some research and realized it is the Lexapro! Ever since I started taking that I have been gaining weight, but unaware that it was the medication causing it. I am going to stop talking this medication, because I don’t want to be overweight.

  • Lisa Jean January 27, 2017, 3:57 am

    0n 20mg of Lex for 8 months. Great med except for the weight gain! I’m 5’8″. Went from 155 to 205. Got an appt. tomorrow to switch back to Prozac. Keep smiling :)

  • Ciera January 6, 2017, 12:02 am

    I’ve been on Cipralex but had to switch to escitalopram oxalate due to financial reasons. I started at 10mg, the next month I was at 20mg, and then a month after I had to go to 30mg. I have been on them for 4 months. I weighed 156 lbs. I now weigh over 210 lbs, and that came INSTANTLY… and it is literally impossible to get the weight off.

    I have stretch marks all over my arms from the rapid weight gain as well. It sucks, and I feel lazy, tired. I’ll be seeing a psychiatrist to get properly diagnosed so that’s a plus, since my family doctor gave them to me to hold me over.

  • Kelli December 23, 2016, 1:49 pm

    I’ve been on lexapro for two months and have gained 8 pounds. I have had leg surgery and the doctor said that it might help me since I suffer from anxiety and short bouts of anger brought on by stress. The drug helped amazingly well. I however get depressed with weight gain and I have decided to go off of it simply because I do not want to be heavy.

    I am bummed because I can definitely tell the difference not being on the medication. I am back to lashing out again. I was happier on the medication, food tasted better, life was nicer and everyone around me said that I was easier to talk to and more patient when I was on the medication.

    I don’t like the person I am when I’m off of it, but I already have issues with my weight and I can’t tolerate being any heavier. Regretfully I have stopped taking it solely because of the weight gain. My diet is poor and it got worse after taking the lexapro.

  • Sandy November 27, 2016, 9:30 pm

    I have been on 10 mgs of Lexapro for 3 years. I am 5’1″ and weighed 128 when I went on. Now I’m 170. I’m going off now per my doctors plan for tapering. Hope the cravings stop. I stayed on because it worked so well turning my brain off at night. I slept so well while on it but it isn’t worth this weight.

  • MaryBee November 23, 2016, 2:31 pm

    I have been on Lexapro (20mg) for over two years now. I stand 5’2″ and started out at 149 and was shocked when I did a weigh in last Thursday to find I was at 196.4. I really didn’t know a side effect of Lexapro was weight gain. I had been on other medications and the minute I saw a weight gain I would stop taking them. I have developed fibromyalgia over the last five years and all I keep hearing is you need to stay active.

    That is difficult to do when you don’t have the energy to even sit. I sleep about 5 hours a night and I stay on a constant diet. I have noticed in the last several months I have a hard time with remembering names of everyday things like measuring spoons. In reviewing some of the other posts now I think I may have a talk with my doctor.

    What I am doing now is not really living and I have been very concerned that I had had a stroke because of the memory problem, but the tests say NO. I have to get this weight off and I have tried just about everything except surgery. Pills that have caused some damage to my liver, restrictive diet plans, gym membership, home gym equipment.

    I wish I had come across your article before this. I had no idea that it could be the Lexapro… I am not sure I can get by without an SSRI but wish I could find one that wouldn’t kill me. This weight will defiantly decrease my lifespan.

  • Renee November 23, 2016, 12:36 pm

    I have been taking Lexapro for a year and 4 months. I have gained a total of about 17lbs. I was also taking ativan (0.5mg) along with it. I am on my 9th day of not taking my meds. I have only experienced SOME joint pain, but that is all. Since I have been on these meds, I have experienced a great deal of memory loss, therefore I would actually forget to take my meds for two days.

    On the morning of the third day I would be having an anxiety attack. As I stated, I am on my 9th day without any meds, and all the credit and glory goes to God. He still perform miracles! Throughout the time I was on the meds and dealing with the change in me and in my life, meaning that I resigned from my salary paying job to a hourly paying job, because I could no longer keep up with the workload and be successful on my job, I began speaking healing scriptures over my body and mind.

    I am still doing it now, and believing God for total healing and restoration. I have experienced both healing in my body before and in my life, so I have first hand experience of His supernatural power. I want to end saying what the Word of God says, “Cast all your cares upon me for I careth for you.” I believe through learning to trust God with our lives and all situations that may ever occur, this is the beginning of a new life of peace.

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