Antidepressant weight gain happens, but there are ways to fight back.

Here are solutions to weight gain from antidepressants.

There are two types of weight gain from antidepressants. 

It’s the second type that can have many people up in arms; after all, an antidepressant is supposed to help you gain back a positive mood, not weight.

It’s no secret that antidepressants can cause certain individuals to put on weight.  

Let’s look at the second type of weight gain from antidepressants first: putting on extra pounds that weren’t there prior to antidepressant use.

“There is evidence that serotonin activation leads to an increase in appetite,” says Joe Wegmann, psychopharmacologist and licensed clinical social worker, author of Psychopharmacology: Straight Talk on Mental Health Medications.  

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, of which deficient levels are associated with depression.

Antidepressants cause an increase in serotonin levels.

Wegmann continues: “There are 14 different serotonin receptor subtypes. The activation or inhibition of some of these serotonin receptors keeps the brain’s ‘satiety switch’ in the ‘off’ position.

“As such, some individuals using the serotonin antidepressants in particular aren’t able to recognize when they feel full while eating, and as such, don’t feel satiated, and continue to eat unnecessarily.”

And that explains why putting on weight can result from using antidepressants. The body fat gain can be offset by exercise.

It’s difficult or impossible to stick to exercise while being ruled by depression, but once an antidepressant subdues those feelings of apathy, lethargy, sadness or that bottomless-pit feeling, you can work towards committing to moderate to vigorous exercise (build up gradually to vigorous if you haven’t exercised in a long time).

Wegmann adds, “Paxil tends to produce the most weight gain among the SSRIs. Weight gain with the SSRIs and SNRIs tends not to exceed 10 pounds in most people.

“There are of course exceptions. Wellbutrin, since it has no serotonin effects, is essentially weight neutral. Some people even lose weight with Wellbutrin use over time.”

The other type of antidepressant weight gain involves putting back on the pounds that you lost due to suppressed appetite from depression/anxiety.

Says Wegmann, “Most people meeting criteria for clinical depression do experience weight loss, precipitated by psychomotor retardation (slowed mind, slowed body) amotivational syndrome, and anhedonia (an inability to experience pleasure).

“Eating is a pleasurable experience for us non-depressed folks, but for depressed individuals, the above mentioned symptoms inhibit appetite.

“So when placed on antidepressants, as the retardation, lack of motivation and inability to experience pleasure improves, eating becomes more pleasurable, appetite increases and weight gain (of the lost pounds) ensues as a result.

“In very severe depressions, significant weight loss may occur. So regaining this weight is essential to health.”

Joseph Wegmann is a licensed clinical pharmacist and clinical social worker with more than 30 years of experience in the field of psychopharmacology.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Shutterstock/Kzenon