Lexapro (escitalopram) is a medication doctors prescribe to treat anxiety and depression. It increases serotonin in the brain, which can affect your appetite and may lead to weight changes.

Lexapro belongs to a class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Doctors may prescribe it to treat mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

In this article, we look at how Lexapro can affect appetite and weight and some tips for managing weight change.

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Lexapro’s prescribing information states that people using the drug to treat major depression may experience significant changes in weight and appetite. These include both increases and decreases.

The leaflet cites animal studies in which significant weight gain occurred. However, at least one study has suggested that adult humans are unlikely to see clinically significant changes, while children and adolescents using Lepraxo may have slower growth and weight gain.

The authors of a 2014 study concluded that various antidepressants could lead to weight gain, but the differences among them were relatively small. The average weight gain for people taking Lexapro was less than 0.5%.

The most significant weight gain occurred in young men and those whose body mass index (BMI) was low before starting treatment.

A 2018 review also compared weight changes with various antidepressants and concluded that the average weight gain with Lexapro was 3.7%. Weight gain with other options ranged from 1.1% with nortriptyline to 25.9% with amitriptyline.

Research from 2017 looked at the role of SSRIs in weight gain. The authors found that certain risk factors increased the likelihood of a person gaining weight when taking these antidepressants. These factors included:

  • having a sedentary lifestyle
  • smoking
  • eating a diet high in processed meat, dairy, and refined carbohydrates

SSRIs may be less likely than older antidepressants — such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants — to cause weight gain.

Meanwhile, the National Library of Medicine lists decreased appetite as a side effect of Lexapro and does not mention weight gain.

Why do antidepressants affect weight?

Experts do not know precisely why weight changes occur with antidepressant use.

One reason may be that they boost serotonin, which plays a role in managing appetite. The medication may increase appetite directly, or a person may begin to eat more as their depression or anxiety lessens.

Depression and anxiety can also affect eating habits — people may eat more or less than usual. Lifestyle remedies, such as changes in diet and exercise, may also affect a person’s appetite and weight.

More research is needed to identify what connection, if any, exists between SSRIs and weight gain.

SSRIs work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood.

Lexapro comes as either a liquid or a pill. The dosage is usually 10 milligrams (mg) daily, taken either in the morning or the evening.

A person may notice an improvement in symptoms after 1–4 weeks, but they should continue taking the drug, or symptoms may return. People should not stop taking Lexapro without guidance from a doctor.

Medication affects everyone differently.

Anyone concerned about weight changes while taking Lexapro should speak with a doctor.

A doctor may do further tests to see if there is another reason for the change in weight. If there is no other reason, they may suggest an alternative treatment.

Other remedies for treating depression include:

  • undergoing counseling
  • exercising, such as walking at least 30 minutes each day
  • following a varied diet and eating regular meals
  • establishing or maintaining a regular sleep pattern
  • connecting with others
  • avoiding the use of alcohol, nicotine, and drugs that a doctor has not recommended

These measures can help a person feel better, and some may help manage weight.

Lexapro can cause other side effects, which may include:

If these side effects do not go away or are very severe, a person should seek medical advice.

Some side effects, including the following, can be serious and require urgent medical attention:

All SSRIs have slightly different side effects. If the side effects of an antidepressant are affecting a person’s quality of life, they might benefit from trying an alternative drug.

Learn more about Lexapro’s side effects.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects if it’s safe to do so.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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Here are some answers to questions people often ask about Lexapro (escitalopram) and weight gain.

Can Lexapro cause rapid weight gain?

Lexapro may cause a small amount of weight gain. If rapid or dramatic weight gain occurs, a person should speak with their doctor.

How much weight do you gain on Lexapro?

The effects of Lexapro on weight will vary among individuals. A 2014 study found that the average weight gain was less than 0.5%, but a 2018 review put the average weight gain at 3.7%.

Does Lexapro slow your metabolism?

Metabolic changes can occur when a person has depression and is taking antidepressant medications. However, the relationships are complex, and there is not enough evidence to show that Lepraxo specifically affects metabolism.

How can I avoid gaining weight on Lexapro?

Ways of managing weight while taking Lepraxo include:

  • following a varied diet with plenty of fresh ingredients
  • avoiding high fat, high sugar foods
  • eating regular meals and healthy snacks
  • getting regular exercise
  • receiving counseling to help manage both depression and weight issues

Anyone concerned about their weight should ask a healthcare professional about how to manage it.

Which foods can help manage depression?

Weight changes can occur when taking Lexapro, but they are not usually dramatic. In some cases, weight loss may occur. A doctor may monitor a child taking this drug for reduced growth rates and insufficient weight gain.

Anyone with concerns about weight gain while taking Lexapro may wish to seek advice from a doctor, who might offer an alternative medication.

A varied, balanced diet and regular exercise are also treatment options for depression and anxiety, and they can help manage weight changes.