Weight Loss

Can Antidepressants Cause Weight Loss?

Aditi Shenai

September 29, 2022

Antidepressants are medications for depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. They come with an interesting side effect: weight loss.

There are many types of antidepressants that cause different side effects, where unwanted weight changes are just one of them. Many experience weight gain after starting on antidepressants.

But a clinical study shows that the drug bupropion (Wellbutrin), an atypical antidepressant, leads to weight loss rather than weight gain. So while experts are still 100% sure if antidepressants are the direct cause of weight loss, they have an indirect effect.

Let us look at how certain antidepressants, the gold standard for treating mental health conditions, have earned this reputation for causing weight loss. 

Antidepressants that Cause Weight Loss

Weight gain is the infamous side effect of most antidepressants. However, some antidepressants cause weight loss instead of weight gain.

These include bupropion, fluoxetine, and duloxetine. How and why an antidepressant causes weight loss depends on the individual since some experience no side effects whatsoever, while others swear by it. 

Temporary Loss of Appetite

One of the possible weight loss causes while taking antidepressants, though, has to do with appetite. It turns out that antidepressants can cause temporary appetite loss.

Indeed it’s not the same for everybody. Wellbutrin, or bupropion, stops the brain’s reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine, which dampens appetite.

This appetite-suppressing nature can cause significant weight loss of over five pounds. And it turns out that bupropion is an antidepressant sometimes prescribed as an appetite suppressant for the severely obese. A few antidepressants can also cause nausea and vomiting with appetite loss, consequently leading to weight loss. 

Feel Less Despondent 

The initial weight gain might happen because you feel less gloomy and better in the mood once on the antidepressant drug, which gets you up and active.

When you’re in remission of depressive symptoms, you are more likely to make an effort towards staying active and eating right. Yet another study suggests that mood-boosting fluoxetine (Prozac) causes modest weight loss. Patients lost 0.4 kg on average over four weeks.

When weight loss occurs as a side effect of antidepressants, it’s typically minimal. Weight gain might be the more common side effect of antidepressants. Yet some people, particularly nonsmokers, may experience positive weight changes depending on the specific drug class and type.

The HealthifyMe Note

Antidepressants like fluoxetine, bupropion, and duloxetine lead to slight weight loss during the first months of treatment by decreasing your appetite. Although it’s tempting to start taking an antidepressant to lose weight, don’t do that without consulting your doctor first. Depending on the drug you take, it can have severe after-effects on your weight. 

Have Antidepressants Been Prescribed for Weight Loss?

Antidepressants are not prescribed to support weight loss since there is no guarantee. There are several reasons, the major one being the lack of approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

It means the FDA did not give the green signal for using antidepressants as a weight-loss medication. Plus, there is no scientific evidence to show that antidepressants are safe and effective for weight loss. Finally, as previously mentioned, most antidepressants cause weight gain, so they may not fulfil your intended weight loss objective.

Antidepressants can cause serious side effects. With the following potential side effects, you must remember that they are not meant for weight loss.

  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Tremors 
  • Seizures
  • Rapid heartbeat

Ways to Manage Your Weight While Taking Antidepressants

Even if you’re taking an antidepressant that’s associated with weight loss, there are simple steps that you can take. As a result, it can ensure long-term weight loss and body composition management.

Conscious Eating

Practise mindful eating and limit your total calorie intake. Conscious eating involves paying close attention to your food and eating just enough calories to sustain you throughout the day.

If you’re worried about how antidepressants might affect your appetite, refer to a nutritionist who can advise you on what dietary changes your diet needs. In addition, downloading the HealthifyMe app is an excellent way to connect with coaches for your physical and mental health.

Be More Physically Active

You can go for a walk or a jog, do aerobics in your house, and even take a short bike ride around your neighbourhood. Regular physical activity, at least 150 minutes of a moderate-intensity session each week, helps burn calories. 

The HealthifyMe Note

Keep in mind that antidepressants are only tentatively associated with weight loss. Paying attention to your diet, exercise, and medication schedule is very important. It will minimise the side effects. In addition, it is also advisable not to quit the medications suddenly. It might also lead to weight imbalance.  


If you are taking precautions before starting antidepressants, it ensures that you have negligible side effects. Side effects are not always about the chemicals in the drug.

It is more about how that chemical reacts to your body. Thus it can be affected by your habits, any other medications you have been on, and overall the type of food you consume.

You can take antidepressants safely if you follow these precautions:

  • Inform your healthcare practitioner of all your medications. That includes any prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, dietary supplements, and decongestants you use.
  • Try to purchase all of your medications from the same drugstore. In this manner, the pharmacist can alert you and your healthcare practitioner if you take drugs that could interact negatively.
  • Pay close attention to all the directions for taking your medication.
  • If you are bothered by any side effects, consult your doctor and tell them how you feel.
  • Never discontinue taking antidepressants on your own without consulting your doctor. Stopping too soon could cause depression to relapse. It could make things worse. You must give your body time to adjust to stopping antidepressants safely and only do so when your doctor tells you to.


Antidepressants are not prescribed or obtained purely for weight loss, except in the case of severe obesity. These are not magic diet pills for keeping off the pounds.

Don’t mistake them as potential dietary supplements when they are powerful neurological agents. Hence, it would help if you didn’t decide to take an antidepressant based on its influence on your appetite alone.

Instead, stick to a healthy diet plan and ease into a fitness routine for lasting weight loss. It’s possible to lose or manage weight with regular exercise, healthy eating habits, and good self-care.

About the Author

M.Sc in: Dietetics and Applied Nutrition from Manipal University. Worked: All over India and have been involved in helping set up nutrition departments in start ups. Interested in lifestyle based nutrition. Mantra: A healthy lifestyle isn't a choice to be made or discarded, it's a way of life!

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