Do antidepressants make you gain weight? Well, not necessarily.
Antidepressants are a very common medication. In a survey from 2015-2018, about 13 percent of adults used antidepressants in the past 30 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite how common they are, there are still a lot of myths about antidepressants that create confusion or cause stigma.
Common Myths About Antidepressants
MYTH #1: Antidepressants are “happy pills” that change your personality
Critics of antidepressants worry that the pills “change who you are” or just create a false sense of happiness. Not only is this incorrect, but it also creates unrealistic expectations for patients. Some people who start taking antidepressants are initially disappointed that they aren’t suddenly happier.
The truth is, antidepressants don’t work by “making you happy.” More accurately, they reduce the effects of depression on your mood. This can actually help you regain your natural personality that you had before developing depression. They should figuratively lift the cloud from over your head to help you be more “you.”
MYTH #2: Antidepressants make you gain weight
This isn’t necessarily the case. What makes this myth problematic is that it can dissuade people from taking antidepressants who could really benefit from them.
It’s true that some people do gain weight on antidepressants. However, there are several types of antidepressants, and some are more likely to cause weight gain than others. Plus, everyone responds differently to antidepressants (or any medication, for that matter). If you think one type is causing you to gain weight, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different type.
MYTH #3: Antidepressants make you lose your libido
Again, this depends on the type of antidepressant and how you respond to it. Some types are more likely to affect your libido than others.
It’s hard to know the full effect of antidepressants on your sex drive. That’s because depression itself can lower libido and sexual function. That said, here are tips if your antidepressants are affecting your libido.
MYTH #4: Antidepressants are just a crutch and don’t help the underlying problem
Some people believe lifestyle changes alone are the proper “cure” for depression. It’s true that certain habits, combined with therapy, can provide major relief. However, depression symptoms can be so severe that they prevent people from seeking help—or even getting out of bed.
In many cases, antidepressants can relieve someone’s symptoms enough to make therapy and lifestyle changes less daunting and more achievable. That’s one of the reasons why a combination of medication and therapy is the recommended treatment for depression.
MYTH #5: If you try an antidepressant for a week and don’t feel better, it didn’t work
This myth is a big problem. Some people give up on their antidepressants after a week because they think it’s not working. As a result, they continue to suffer from their depression symptoms and just accept that they’ll never feel better. In some cases, it may even cause their depression to worsen, and they may develop suicide ideation.
Some medications may provide quick relief, but others (including antidepressants) take some time to work in your body. You may need to take an antidepressant consistently for four to six weeks before you can see results and know if it’s “working.”
MYTH #6: Once you start feeling better, you can stop taking the antidepressant
When you’re truly ready to come off antidepressants, your doctor will help you taper off them safely. This helps avoid withdrawal symptoms from abruptly stopping.
If you have more questions about antidepressants and how they will affect you, your doctor or psychiatrist is the best person to ask.
- Antidepressant use among adults: United States, 2015-2018. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020. (Accessed on January 28, 2021)
- Antidepressants. Washington, DC: MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on January 28, 2021)
- Mental health medications. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Mental Health. (Accessed on January 28, 2021)