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Mental health is an integral part of our overall well-being. When we experience certain mental health conditions, medication can be an effective component of our mental health treatment plan. Lexapro (escitalopram) is a common psychiatrist-prescribed medication that’s been proven effective in helping to manage symptoms related to depression and anxiety. It’s not without side effects, though. Research suggests that some people gain weight on Lexapro or other antidepressants.  

If you’re considering taking Lexapro or are already on it and have noticed weight change, you might be wondering about Lexapro weight gain. Once you understand more about this potential side effect, you can make informed decisions about whether or not Lexapro is right for you. 

Keep reading to learn more about Lexapro and weight gain. We’re covering how much weight some people gain, why weight change might happen, how to avoid it, and more. 

Does Lexapro Cause Weight Gain?

Lexapro is an antidepressant medication that belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It’s used to treat depression, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and other mood disorders. While it can be effective for many people in treating these conditions, Lexapro and weight gain has been found in some people.

“All medications have some level of side effects associated with them. It is no different with Lexapro. A commonly reported symptom is weight gain. This can be due to a multitude of reasons but it does exist. Managing the possibility of weight gain through adjustments in exercise and diet will be important.”

Talkspace therapist Minkyung Chung, MS, LMHC
How much weight do you gain on Lexapro?

Some research found that up to 41% of people who take Lexapro might experience increased body weight. It can take anywhere from 6 – 8 weeks to see the side effects of Lexapro fully, and it’s during that time it can be more common to start seeing fluctuations in weight. 

Lexapro and weight gain can vary from person to person. One study found that people on Lexapro for 9 months gained an average of 2.4 pounds.

Why Does Lexapro Cause Weight Gain?

Several factors can contribute to Lexapro and weight gain. For example, some medications are known to cause an increase in appetite, changes in metabolism, or fluid retention. In addition, some people find it challenging to maintain an active lifestyle when feeling low or anxious — which can also contribute to weight gain over time if left unchecked.

The exact reason Lexapro might cause weight gain isn’t fully understood yet. However, many experts believe that changes in metabolism or appetite could play a role in causing this particular side effect. Other possible explanations include increased cravings for carbohydrates or increased fat storage due to decreased physical activity caused by low energy levels associated with depression or anxiety medications like Lexapro.

Research identifies multiple possible explanations for why someone might gain weight on Lexapro. Some of them include the following: 

Sedentary lifestyle

Some people who aren’t active or don’t work out might be more prone to gaining weight when on depression or anxiety medication like Lexapro. 

Serotonin levels changing

One theory about Lexapro and weight gain is that increased serotonin levels can lead to changes in appetite or metabolism, resulting in unwanted weight gain. 

Increased cravings

Another possibility is that an SSRI antidepressant like Lexapro can increase cravings for certain types of food, including carbohydrates or sweets. 

Smoking

Some people with a history of smoking might gain weight after starting prescription antidepressant treatment. 

As always it’s important to talk to your doctor before you smoke or use any substance alongside Lexapro. Lexapro and alcohol are not recommended together so be sure you always talk to your doctor about potential interactions.

Improved appetite 

Finally, some people simply eat more when feeling better emotionally due to improved moods from antidepressants like Lexapro. Depression and anxiety can cause a decreased appetite so a reduction of those symptoms can improve someone’s appetite. 

Does Lexapro Weight Gain Go Away?

It’s not uncommon for people to experience weight gain while taking Lexapro. The good news is that this side effect often might go away once the body adjusts to the drug and your metabolism returns to normal.

How long does weight gain from Lexapro last?

The duration of Lexapro weight gain varies from person to person. Some people experience it immediately after starting the medication. Others, though, might only notice changes once they have taken it for several weeks or months. It might be the case that the longer you take Lexapro, the more likely it is that you’ll experience some weight gain.

How to Avoid Gaining Weight on Lexapro

If you want to try and avoid the potential side effect of gaining too much weight while on Lexapro, there are steps you can take. Here are some tips for avoiding weight gain when taking Lexapro:

Eat healthy foods: Eating healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products can help keep your body fueled with the nutrients it needs without adding extra calories or fat. Avoid processed foods high in sugar and saturated fats which can lead to weight gain.

Exercise regularly: Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight. Working out also releases endorphins that can improve mood and reduce stress levels (both of which have been linked to overeating or unhealthy eating habits). Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. Try things like walking, jogging, yoga, or cycling.

Monitor your weight: Keeping track of your weight regularly will help you identify any changes quickly so that you can make adjustments if needed. Some people find it helpful to weigh themselves once a week at the same time, wearing similar clothing each time for accuracy.

“Learning to manage weight gain while on Lexapro will be helpful in ensuring the benefits of the medication are aiding the symptoms of depression. Weight gain can cause additional health-related risks but also more symptoms of depression heavily related to the weight gain. Ensuring proactive changes to diet and exercise, employing healthy coping skills, and talking to the psychiatrists and therapists will be important in managing those side effects.”

Talkspace therapist Minkyung Chung, MS, LMHC

If you notice significant changes in your appetite or sudden unexplained increases in weight while taking Lexapro, talk to your doctor immediately. They may suggest adjusting the dosage or switching medications if necessary. Additionally, they can advise on how best to manage any other side effects associated with this drug, including unwanted weight gain.

By making lifestyle changes and monitoring your weight while taking Lexapro, you can avoid gaining weight. 

Some natural supplements are also available that have been shown effective at reducing symptoms associated with depression. Some are effective without causing significant Lexapro side effects like increased appetite or cravings. You can ask your doctor about these options as well.

Talk to Your Doctor About Lexapro Side Effects

It’s important to ask your doctor the question: can Lexapro cause weight gain? While it can be effective in treating your mental health condition, there are side effects — like the possibility of weight gain — to be aware of before starting the medication.  

Understanding the potential Lexapro side effects can help determine if the drug might be a good option as part of your treatment plan. Your doctor will ensure you understand what might occur and how to best manage side effects like weight gain if you experience them. Be sure to also talk to your doctor about other medical advice regarding Lexapro, such as using Lexapro while pregnant.

Lexapro weight gain can be a common side effect, but it doesn’t impact everyone who takes this medication. Multiple studies conclude that SSRIs like Lexapro can result in weight gain. However, it varies from person to person depending on individual factors such as age, lifestyle habits, diet, and activity level.

Are you struggling with weight gain while taking Lexapro? Are you looking for a solution to help manage your symptoms and reduce the risk of side effects? Online therapy from Talkspace provides personalized support to address the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of dealing with any mental health condition. 

Talkspace offers convenient, affordable, evidence-based therapy tailored to your needs. With the help of a Talkspace therapist, you can find relief from symptoms and reduce your worry about unwanted side effects like weight gain. Contact us today to get started on your journey toward wellness.

Sources:

Gafoor R, Booth HP, Gulliford MC. Antidepressant utilisation and incidence of weight gain during 10 years’ follow-up: Population based cohort study. BMJ. 2018. doi:10.1136/bmj.k1951. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5964332/. Accessed December 12, 2022.

 Anagha K, Shihabudheen P, Uvais NA. Side effect profiles of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The Primary Care Companion For CNS Disorders. 2021;23(4). doi:10.4088/pcc.20m02747. https://www.psychiatrist.com/pcc/depression/side-effect-profiles-selective-serotonin-reuptake-inhibitors-cross-sectional-study-naturalistic-setting/. Accessed December 12, 2022.

Escitalopram (Lexapro). NAMI. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Escitalopram-%28Lexapro%29#: Accessed December 14, 2022. 

Blumenthal SR, Castro VM, Clements CC, et al. An electronic health records study of long-term weight gain following antidepressant use. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(8):889. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.414. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/1878922. Accessed December 14, 2022.

Shi Z, Atlantis E, Taylor AW, et al. SSRI antidepressant use potentiates weight gain in the context of unhealthy lifestyles: Results from a 4-year Australian follow-up study. BMJ Open. 2017;7(8). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016224. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/7/8/e016224. Accessed December 14, 2022.

Lee SH, Paz-Filho G, Mastronardi C, Licinio J, Wong M-L. Is increased antidepressant exposure a contributory factor to the obesity pandemic? Translational Psychiatry. 2016;6(3). doi:10.1038/tp.2016.25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26978741/. Accessed December 14, 2022.

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