Antidepressant use has increased dramatically in recent years, but most people worry about effective antidepressants that don’t cause weight gain or cause the least weight gain among other side effects. Almost 10% of the general population and as many as 25% of people with chronic illness have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, which can lead to an increased risk for developing a secondary condition like obesity or diabetes.
Less than half of patients taking antidepressants report feeling better after three months, and one-third stop using them before 12 weeks. This is because most antidepressants are not very effective and frequently cause side effects, including weight gain.
Antidepressants balance chemicals in your brain – neurotransmitters that affect mood and emotions. SSRIs block the absorption of serotonin in your brain by reducing its quantity or blocking its receptor sites so it cannot function properly. Because serotonin plays an important role in your appetite, sleep patterns, and other daily activities, these medications often result in weight gain and other negative side effects.
What Causes Weight Gain From Antidepressants?
The reasons for weight gain vary, but the most common cause is due to a change in appetite. Antidepressants work to increase serotonin and reduce levels of dopamine, which can lead to an increased appetite.
Antidepressants other than increasing the appetite also may increase cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods, such as bread, pasta, and desserts. Therefore, an increased appetite and increased uptake of carbohydrates can cause weight increase.
Additionally, people who take antidepressants are often less active because they have low energy levels; this leads to weight gain in some cases. A recent study on the effects of antidepressants found that weight gain was the most common side effect among those taking antidepressants.
Safer Medications That Don’t Lead to Weight Gain/ Antidepressants that don’t cause weight gain
There are plenty of other antidepressants that don’t lead to weight gain. The five antidepressants that cause the least weight gain are Effexor (venlafaxine), Wellbutrin (bupropion), amitriptyline, nortriptyline, and Nefazodone (rarely used because of liver problems).
Effexor (venlafaxine) is an antidepressant that works by preventing serotonin and norepinephrine from being reabsorbed into the neuron. It has been found to be effective in relieving depression, panic disorder, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder. However, it doesn’t lead to weight gain like many antidepressants.
Another medication that doesn’t cause weight gain is Wellbutrin (bupropion). Wellbutrin has a chemical makeup very similar to amphetamines. It has been found to be effective at treating major depressive disorder when used as an adjunct treatment or alone. Other conditions it can treat include seasonal affective disorder and ADHD.
Nefazodone (however, this is rarely used because it can cause severe liver problems) may also be an option for those who want relief from their depression without gaining weight. Nefazodone blocks serotonin and histamine receptors in the brain, which helps with major depression symptoms such as low moods and lack of appetite. It also has a chemical makeup similar to SSRI drugs, but it doesn’t have any sexual side effects associated with SSRIs like Prozac or Zoloft do.
How to Avoid Unwanted Side Effects When Taking an Antidepressant
There are many different types of antidepressants, and they work differently on different people. Some are more likely to cause weight gain than others, so it’s important to speak with your doctor or psychiatrist about the side effects before you make a decision.
There are also specific alternatives that don’t cause weight gain. One of the most popular non-weight-gain antidepressants is Wellbutrin XL, which belongs to a class called norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRI).
Wellbutrin XL is a widely used antidepressant because it doesn’t lead to weight gain and is relatively effective for those who experience depression symptoms. Another option for people looking for an antidepressant without weight gain is bupropion (also known as Wellbutrin).
This drug works by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, but it also has potential side effects like seizure and heart problems. It can be hard enough to manage depression symptoms; why make things worse by gaining unwanted pounds?
Make sure you get as much information as possible before taking any medication — both about its effectiveness and its potential side effects, including weight gain.
What Causes Antidepressants to Cause Weight Gain?
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 serotonin’s ability to influence your brain’s 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.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant medication that typically doesn’t lead to weight gain. The most popular SSRI is a drug called Prozac, which was the first one developed by a team of researchers led by Dr. Eli Lilly.
Other notable SSRIs include Lexapro, Paxil, and Zoloft. SSRIs work by blocking serotonin from being reabsorbed into the neuron cells. This and other mechanisms help to balance out the moods and improve the symptoms of depression that people experience.
However, it’s important to note that not all people taking SSRIs will see a beneficial response from treatment — around 40 percent of people will stop taking their medication after just four weeks. While there are many benefits to taking this type of medication for depression, there are also drawbacks and side effects worth considering before starting any new treatment plan.
One potential downside is weight gain, but fortunately, it’s not typical for this type of antidepressant to cause unwanted weight changes in patients. Many antidepressants can lead to weight gain as a side effect because they change brain chemistry, but SSRIs don’t typically have this effect on everyone who takes them.
If you are getting weight gain from an SSRI, you can check the weight gain prevention and management strategies described below.
Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)
The other type of antidepressant that we’ll explore are tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). TCAs have been around for a long time, and are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants in the United States.
The biggest benefit to TCAs is that they are quite effective for mental disorders but they cause weight gain. Moreover, they also carry significant side effects such as dry mouth, constipation, high blood pressure, heart rhythm abnormalities, and sedation.
Some of the best-known TCAs are:
- amitriptyline (Elavil),
- amoxapine (Amoxapine Tablets),
- clomipramine (Anafranil),
- desipramine (Norpramin),
- doxepin (Sinequan),
- imipramine (Tofranil),
- nortriptyline (Pamelor),
- trimipramine (Surmontil),
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
One of the most effective types of antidepressants for depression is a type called monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAOIs. MAOIs interfere with the metabolism of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. The common MAOIs that are used for depression and anxiety include:
- Isocarboxazid (Marplan)
- Phenelzine (Nardil)
- Selegiline (Emsam)
- Tranylcypromine (Parnate)
In contrast to other antidepressant medications, they are not as likely to increase appetite and weight gain is rare. A study published in Clinical Drug Investigation looked at the effectiveness of an MAOI called moclobemide in depressed patients who were struggling with weight gain from other medications.
The result was that moclobemide decreased their weight by an average of six pounds after six months. The most common side effects of MAOIs are gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, so you may want to start off taking a lower dose to see how your body reacts.
If you do start experiencing gastrointestinal side effects, talk to your doctor about switching medications or switching to another class of antidepressants that might work better for you.
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
SNRIs are a form of antidepressant with a different mechanism of action than SSRIs. This means that they work differently to increase serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. SNRIs are generally considered to be more effective than SSRIs but also come with more side effects such as weight gain.
One popular option for people on an antidepressant who want to avoid weight gain is Effexor XR (venlafaxine). It’s an SNRI that has been shown to produce less weight gain than other antidepressants. Cymbalta (duloxetine) is another option for people who need an antidepressant and don’t want to gain weight.
Cymbalta is an SNRI as well, but it doesn’t have the same effect on serotonin levels so it has a lower risk of leading to weight gain. The other popular SNRIs for anxiety and depression include:
- Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
- Levomilnacipran (Fetzima)
Norepinephrine–dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI)
There are several NDRIs that are used in the treatment of depression and other mental conditions. Some of the common ones include:
- Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
The other NDRIs are not so commonly used for mental disorders including:
- Catovit (prolintane)
- Cleofil (difemetorex)
- Glucoenergan (fencamfamine)
- Phenotropil (phenylpiracetam)
- Survector (amineptine)
The norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI) Wellbutrin (bupropion) is a popular choice because it has been shown to be effective in treating depression without an increased risk of weight gain.
Additionally, this type of antidepressant has been linked to improved cardiovascular health, reduced risk of relapse, and the potential for fewer side effects.
Serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARI)
Nefazodone is a serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARI) — it blocks the reabsorption of serotonin by the brain. It’s used to treat major depression, anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and social phobia. There are two main SARIs that are available in the market:
- Trazodone (previous trade names include Desyrel, Oleptro).
- Nefazodone (previously marketed as Serzone)
Nefazodone was initially developed in 1979 by Organon International as a potential antidepressant. It’s usually taken once per day with or without food. The maximum daily dose for adults is 800 mg; for children between 12-17 years old, the maximum daily dose is 600 mg.
Nefazodone either does not cause weight gain or causes the least weight gain but is rarely used due to the side effects that can affect the liver.
It can take up to 4 weeks before you start feeling better. Side effects include dizziness, somnolence, nausea and vomiting (sometimes), diarrhea, anorexia (loss of appetite), sexual dysfunction (impotence and lack of libido), headaches, weight gain or loss, and decreased levels of sodium in your blood.
Which antidepressants cause the least weight gain?
Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is one antidepressant that doesn’t cause weight gain. With this medication, you may experience a loss in appetite as a side effect instead. This is because it stimulates the release of two chemical messengers in the brain that are linked to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.
There are also other antidepressants that don’t cause weight gain like Effexor (venlafaxine), Nefazodone (however, this is rarely used because it can cause severe liver problems), amitriptyline, and nortriptyline.
Which antidepressants best for weight loss?
One of the best antidepressants for weight loss on the market is bupropion (Wellbutrin), which has been found to be a safer alternative to SSRIs and SNRIs. It’s also been found to help people with ADHD and anxiety disorders, with the most common side effects being dizziness and sleep problems.
Bupropion doesn’t have an FDA-approved indication for weight loss; however, there are some studies that show it can cause modest weight loss in obese patients.
Wellbutrin also has a less serious withdrawal profile than other antidepressants — meaning that if you stop taking it, you’re unlikely to experience any severe or prolonged symptoms like depression, insomnia, or even hallucinations.
Is there an antidepressant that doesn’t cause weight gain?
No matter how well antidepressants work, they can lead to weight gain in many people. Weight gain is especially common with Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, and Lexapro.
Antidepressants that are less likely to cause weight gain include Effexor and Serzone, while Wellbutrin can cause weight loss in some people.
It’s important to understand the risks of each medication so that you can make an educated decision about what will be best for you.
How can I avoid gaining weight on antidepressants?
The best way to avoid weight gain on antidepressants is to simultaneously participate in a formal weight management program. This is the same advice given for anyone who wants to lose weight, not just those taking antidepressants.
A formal weight management program has been proven effective in helping people lose weight and keep it off. There are many types of programs that can be effective for people with depression:
- Low-calorie diets — if you’re overweight or obese and have depression, talk to your doctor about this
- Exercise — regular aerobic exercise has been shown in studies to help reduce serotonin levels and improve mood
- Counseling — some people prefer this option as it provides a more holistic approach that covers diet, exercise, and medication; it also helps with lifestyle changes that may contribute to depression
- Medical treatments — some people may need treatment aside from antidepressant medication
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 SRcause 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.
Is Wellbutrin an appetite suppressant?
Wellbutrin stimulates noradrenaline, dopamine, and (less-so) serotonin receptors. This gives you more energy, suppresses your appetite, and aids focus.
Which bupropion is best for weight loss?
Bupropion is an antidepressant with a unique mechanism of action. It is the only antidepressant that acts primarily by inhibiting the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine (Wilens et al., 2008). This effect on two key neurotransmitters may explain its effectiveness for weight loss.
300mg or 400mg doses of Bupropion SR helped people to lose 7.2% and 10% of their body weight, respectively, over 24 weeks and maintained that weight loss at 48 weeks (Anderson, 2012).
The most popular dosage is bupropion SR (standard release) in 300mg or 400mg doses, which is taken once or twice daily. In clinical trials, bupropion SR (standard release) has been shown to be more effective at promoting weight loss than other antidepressants like fluoxetine and sertraline.
Which causes more weight gain Prozac or Zoloft?
The two medications which are SSRIs can cause weight gain in some patients. However, it is important to know which one causes the most weight gain according to studies.
One study published in 2016 in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that Zoloft can lead to an overall greater weight gain than Prozac when taken long-term, but there are other studies that show weight gain with Prozac as well.
The difference in both medications is explained by the different ways they work (one stimulates serotonin and one inhibits it). In fact, prescription antidepressants work approximately the same when it comes to weight regulation; this includes Wellbutrin and Effexor. As a result, either medication may cause you to gain some unwanted pounds — so it’s important to be mindful of your food intake while on these medications.
Everyone who suffers from depression knows that it’s a miserable, dark place to be. It’s hard to imagine anything worse; you feel like you have no reason to get out of bed and face the world. Everything seems meaningless and pointless: even simple pleasures leave you cold.
You don’t want to see your friends or family, and you certainly don’t want to go back to work. Food is the one thing that can lift your spirits in the short term, so it makes sense that gaining weight as a side effect of taking an antidepressant is such a common problem.
There are many different types of antidepressants that don’t cause weight gain, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs).
In fact, recent research shows that one in five people taking antidepressants will gain weight as a result of their medication — usually around seven pounds on average in the first year of treatment. However, not all antidepressants lead to weight gain, and there are some effective alternatives that won’t lead to unwanted side effects.
Antidepressants can be an effective treatment for depression. However, they can also cause unwanted side effects, like weight gain. When you’re looking for an antidepressant, it is important to look for drugs that will help you without causing unwanted side effects.
Do antidepressants cause weight gain?
Yes, but not all antidepressants lead to weight gain. Some antidepressants are more likely to be associated with weight gain than others.
What are the most effective antidepressants that don’t cause weight gain?
Wellbutrin and Lexapro have a lower risk of causing weight gain, but they may have other side effects like tiredness, headaches, and constipation.
How much weight do people typically gain while taking an antidepressant?
The average is seven pounds in the first year of treatment. However, some people can experience different results. While some people may not experience any weight change at all when taking an antidepressant, others may experience as much as 10 pounds within six months of treatment.
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