Lexapro is a type of antidepressant that’s commonly prescribed to manage mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Prior to 2020, around 1 in 8 Americans were taking antidepressants, but this number has increased by around 18% since the beginning of 2020. As medications like Lexapro become more common and accepted across the United States, people are also becoming familiar with the potential Lexapro side effects they might experience while taking the medication. One potential side effect of taking Lexapro is weight gain. While this may be a turn-off for some people who could benefit from taking Lexapro, there are a number of ways to reduce and manage weight gain when taking this drug.
Investigating Medication Effects: Exploring the Potential Relationship Between Lexapro and Weight
Does Lexapro cause weight gain? The short answer is yes, it can. One of the potential Lexapro side effects is weight gain, but that doesn’t mean it will happen to you or it’s something you just have to live with.
Lexapro can cause weight gain in some patients, depending on a variety of factors such as age, dosage and the patient’s lifestyle. Overall, the average amount of weight patients gain while taking Lexapro for a prolonged period is significantly lower than the weight gained from taking other SSRIs like paroxetine, mirtazapine or doxepin. The reality is that if your doctor prescribes Lexapro for your mental health, they believe the potential benefits of the medication outweigh the risk of any side effects.
Mechanisms and Research: Understanding How Lexapro Might Impact Weight
A 2015 study found that around 40% of people taking Lexapro will gain weight equivalent to 7% of their starting body weight. Independent factors that affected this possibility included a family history of obesity and having a lower body mass index at the time the medication started.
Why Does Lexapro Weight Gain Occur?
There are two primary reasons weight gain can occur in patients taking Lexapro:
- Lexapro boosts serotonin levels in the brain, which helps reduce anxiety but also has the potential to lower the body’s metabolism. When the body’s metabolism slows down, it burns less calories. A person who continues to live the same lifestyle they did before starting Lexapro may gain weight because they’re consuming the same number of calories per day but are naturally burning fewer.
- Serotonin plays a role in regulating a person’s appetite, and because Lexapro increases the body’s serotonin levels, the person may experience a change in appetite as a result. This can cause weight fluctuations in either direction.
Varied Responses: Recognizing That Individuals May Experience Lexapro Side Effects Differently
The side effects of Lexapro are different for everyone, and there’s no way to know exactly how the medication will impact an individual before starting the prescription. Many of the common Lexapro side effects occur when first taking the drug but can improve within 2 weeks as the body adjusts to the dosage. The effects of Lexapro may be different in some people because of a difference in the way nerve cells produce serotonin.
It’s important to communicate with your prescribing doctor about the side effects you experience after starting Lexapro. Together with your physician, you can determine whether you want to continue with this treatment option based on how your body reacts to the pills.
Managing Weight: Strategies for Addressing or Minimizing Lexapro-Related Weight Changes
There are many ways a person taking Lexapro can minimize the effects of weight gain. Recognizing the potential for weight gain while taking this medication is the first step to proactively managing or reducing the chances of serotonin-related weight changes. Making appropriate lifestyle adjustments before and after you start taking Lexapro can help you manage weight gain and live a healthier life.
Engaging in Talk Therapy
Talk therapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy) is a useful tool for managing the mental health conditions Lexapro is commonly prescribed to treat, such as anxiety and depression. When starting Lexapro, speaking to a therapist or psychologist regularly can help by addressing underlying feelings and triggers that could cause you to overeat as a coping mechanism.
To manage weight gain on Lexapro, incorporating daily exercise into your lifestyle is a critical step. A study from UT Southwestern Medical Center found that a single workout could boost a person’s metabolism for up to 2 days. Exercising a few times each week or simply moving your body for 30 minutes a day can help increase metabolism and burn more calories while taking Lexapro.
Eating a Varied Diet
A 2021 review published by the National Library of Medicine recommends eating a varied diet of healthy foods as an effective way to prevent metabolic-related diseases. Based on this notion, consuming a diverse diet of nutritious and healthy foods can help stimulate a person’s metabolism and reduce the likelihood of gaining weight while taking Lexapro.
Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation has a negative impact on the body’s metabolism, slowing it down and causing you to burn fewer calories. For a person taking Lexapro who’s likely already experiencing a reduced metabolism rate, it’s essential to get sufficient sleep each night.
Consultation With Health Care Providers: The Importance of Discussing Lexapro Side Effects Openly
Lexapro is a valuable tool for managing anxiety and other mental health conditions over the long term. In combination with talk therapy, it can be extremely effective and enrich a person’s quality of life. At Sunlight Recovery, we understand that the potential Lexapro side effects can make people hesitate to start the treatment they need. That’s why our compassionate team of counselors is available to chat 24/7 and answer your questions. We can help you make a plan for your mental health journey that you’re comfortable with. Contact us today to learn more.