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Fat Pharms: Antidepressants and Weight Gain

Up to 25% of people who take antidepressants gain weight. Is there anything you can do about it?

Antidepressants and Weight Gain: The Diet and Exercise Link continued...

"The bottom line here is that not only can healthy eating and exercise help control your weight gain, they can also improve your depression, which in turn may help you to cut down on your medication -- and that in turn make weight loss easier," says Heller.

Experts warn, however, not to severely restrict caloric intake while taking antidepressants. Not only may this affect brain chemistry in a negative way, any strong sense of deprivation may contribute to feelings of depression.

So how do you diet without feeling deprived? Heller suggests enlisting the help of a registered dietitian: "In the same way you may need the help of a psychiatrist in dealing with your depression symptoms, you may also need the help of a registered dietitian to devise an eating plan that can help you lose weight without impacting your depression in a negative way."

Antidepressants and Weight Loss: If at First You Don't Succeed ...

Although all the experts WebMD consulted believe it's certainly worth making any and all efforts to control your weight while taking antidepressant medications, they also point out that for one subgroup of people, weight gain will simply be an inevitable side effect of treatment. 

"There are clearly some people for whom certain antidepressants are essential, even though the impact on their weight can be so strong that it simply can't be offset by any amount of calorie restricting or even exercise. It just doesn't work," says Sussman.

If this turns out to be true for you, Fincham says it's vital to keep it in the proper perspective and recognize the importance of treating your depression first and foremost.

"Seeking help for depression and following through with your medication regimen is a courageous and important thing to do, so even if you gain weight in the process, give yourself the gift of working through the depression first. Get a handle on it as best you can, and then worry about the weight loss after you are feeling better mentally and emotionally," says Fincham.

Sussman agrees. "You have to recognize that the weight gain is not your fault and that what you are doing to help overcome your depression is far more important," he says.

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Reviewed on June 28, 2011

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