Anxiety is a common condition that affects many people. Different types of medication treat anxiety, restlessness, and panic attacks. These medicines are called anxiolytics. These are particularly useful in combination with cognitive therapies and other behavioral therapies. Doctors usually use an antidepressant, but there are other classes of medicines to treat anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders therapy works best when the patient works in close consultation with the doctor to find the right individual treatment plan. If a patient experiences side effects of any drug, he should consult his doctor and should not decide to stop the drug dose.(1)
Can Antianxiety Medicines Cause Weight Loss?
There is a rumor that Antidepressants cause weight loss. Often some people lose weight when they start taking antidepressants. But this is not always due to the effect of the medicine. They just lose weight for other reasons.(2)(3)
Side Effects Of Antidepressants: When you start taking antidepressants, the side effects of diarrhea and vomiting are common. If this happens, food will not be absorbed and water will be lost from the body. Then you may lose weight. However, diarrhea and vomiting fade over time as you get used to the medicine. Then, the effect of serotonin metabolism suppression takes effect, and you may gain weight rather losing it in the long run.(4)(5)
Switching Antidepressants: When you switch to a different antidepressant, you may also lose weight. Antidepressants have different weight gain depending on the type. Antidepressants such as tricyclic class and NaSSA promote weight gain. Conversely, SNRI antidepressants do not cause severe weight gain. Thus, you may lose weight when you switch from a NaSSA class drug to an SNRI class antidepressant. This is not promoting weight loss, but only the fading of the side effects of the NaSSA.
Recovering From Anxiety: Some of those who lose weight with antidepressants may be due to the result of their recovery from the condition. When antidepressants are effective, patients become more active (going out of home or for walking or doing more daily work). Increased physical activity consumes energy. Increased muscle mass can improve metabolism. If this effect outweighs the antidepressant’s metabolic inhibitory effects, it will lead to weight loss.
Anti-anxiety medications can relieve symptoms of anxiety and related disorders as part of a treatment program under the supervision of a doctor or therapist. The effects of anxiety medication include changes in eating habits and body weight.
Some of the common anti-anxiety drugs that may cause weight loss due to the above-mentioned reasons are:
Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are anti-anxiety drugs which are also known as tranquilizers. These powerful drugs help reduce anxiety and related symptoms such as panic and nervousness, by dominating the central nervous system. This common class of anti-anxiety medication works quickly and usually affects the body within 30 minutes to an hour of taking a dose. There are different side effects, though, that may cause weight loss. These include nausea, dizziness, vomiting and upset stomach which can cause regular loss of appetite and making it difficult to absorb nutrition from the ingested food.(6)
Buspirone: Buspirone is a newer anti-anxiety medication that is prescribed to prevent anxiety disorder. It can be noted that this drug acts as a mild tranquilizer and decreases anxiety in a mechanism similar to that of anti-depressant drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Although this medication works slowly than benzodiazepines, it can still cause side effects including some that affect the gastrointestinal tract and digestion. These side effects include nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, upset stomach, constipation, and diarrhea. These side effects can lead to weight loss through loss of appetite, taste, and feeling of distress after eating.(7)
MAO Inhibitors: Antidepressant drugs, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors or MAOIs, are also used to treat anxiety in some individuals. MAOIs work by increasing the levels of certain chemicals, or neurotransmitters in the brain. This type of medication can trigger many side effects that influence nutrition and the digestive system, leading to loss of weight. These include nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, upset stomach, and stomach cramps. Besides, MAOIs interact negatively with foods containing high levels of the amino acid tyramine, such as beer, cheese, packaged soups, sour cream, vegetables, wine, and yogurt.
Some antidepressants reduce appetite, so you should discuss this with your doctor. Under no circumstances should weight loss increase your fears. Very often, people who suffer from anxiety have a pronounced self-observation, perceive every physical change particularly strongly and are then worried.(8)
- Grundy A, Cotterchio M, Kirsh VA, Kreiger N. Associations between anxiety, depression, antidepressant medication, obesity and weight gain among Canadian women. PloS one. 2014;9(6).
- Yun J, Choi J, Jo C, Kwon K. Detection of synthetic anti-obesity drugs, designer analogues and weight-loss ingredients as adulterants in slimming Foods from 2015 to 2017. J Chromatogr Sep Tech. 2018;9(396):2.
- Jiang S-M, Jia L, Liu J, Shi M-M, Xu M-Z. Beneficial effects of antidepressant mirtazapine in functional dyspepsia patients with weight loss. World journal of gastroenterology. 2016;22(22):5260.
- Riediger C, Schuster T, Barlinn K, Maier S, Weitz J, Siepmann T. Adverse effects of antidepressants for chronic pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in neurology. 2017;8:307.
- Read J, Williams J. Adverse effects of antidepressants reported by a large international cohort: Emotional blunting, suicidality, and withdrawal effects. Current drug safety. 2018;13(3):176-186.
- Seldenrijk A, Vis R, Henstra M, et al. Systematic review of the side effects of benzodiazepines. Nederlands tijdschrift voor geneeskunde. 2017;161:D1052-D1052.
- Wilson TK, Tripp J. Buspirone. StatPearls [Internet]: StatPearls Publishing; 2019.
- Moreines R, Gold MS. MAO inhibitors: predicting response/maximizing efficacy. Advances in Psychopharmacology: Improving Treatment Response. 2018.
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