Does Celexa Cause Weight Gain?

Side Effects of Citalopram

Celexa weight management

Verywell / Andrea Hickey

Nearly all antidepressants can cause weight gain as a side effect—including Celexa (citalopram). Even though the amount of weight a person is likely to put on while taking Celexa or another SSRI tends to be minimal, gaining even a little bit can be bothersome for many people. However, a few commonsense strategies can help you deal with weight gain while taking Celexa.

What Is Celexa (Citalopram)?

Celexa belongs to a class of antidepressant medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Other commonly prescribed SSRIs include Prozac (fluoxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline).

SSRIs, as the name implies, stop the brain from reabsorbing serotonin, the "feel good" neurotransmitter that helps control mood, affect, sleep, memory, and other functions. This keeps more serotonin available for the brain to use.

Celexa Side Effects

Like nearly all medications, Celexa can cause unwanted effects, but these aren't harmful and should resolve on their own. You might experience no side effects at all--or any of the following mild symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Drowsiness, tiredness, yawning
  • Heavy periods
  • Increased sweating, thirst, and/or urination
  • Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation
  • Runny nose
  • Sexual problems
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Weakness, muscle/joint pain
  • Weight loss

If you have any of the following rare side effects, call your doctor immediately:

  • Agitation, hallucinations, loss of coordination or consciousness
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Fever, sweating
  • Headache
  • Hoarseness
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Rash, difficulty breathing or swallowing, swelling
  • Seizures
  • Severe muscle stiffness, twitching
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising

Celexa and Weight Gain

Experts aren't certain why some SSRIs cause weight changes. One theory is that the drugs somehow slow the metabolism. Another is that SSRIs trigger an upsurge in appetite, causing overeating.

Another reason might come from the drug's success itself. When some people begin to feel better, their appetites return, and they gain weight--typically (and ideally) just enough to return to their normal sizes.

Other Antidepressants and Weight Changes

Celexa is by no means alone in its association with weight gain; most other SSRIs do, too--some more than others. For example, Zoloft (sertraline) and Prozac (fluoxetine) are associated with less weight gain than Paxil (paroxetine).

Other Causes of Weight Gain

Weight changes often occur in tandem with depression, before or apart from treatment. Depression is associated with changes in appetite, eating habits, and levels of hormones that control appetite. Likewise, a person with depression tends to abandon previous activities and interests, which might include sports, fitness, and other physical activities.

Don't stop taking your medication without a doctor's supervision. Going cold turkey off an SSRI can lead to discontinuation syndrome, an array of unpleasant, possibly dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Weight Management While Taking Celexa

If you're gaining weight while taking Celexa and it's enough to bother you—despite whether the medication is relieving your depression symptoms—talk to your doctor. Managing your weight while on an antidepressant really isn't that different from doing so when you aren't. In any case, it's extremely important not to stop taking the drug on your own.

Here are other, less drastic measures you can take to lose weight while on an antidepressant.

  • Eat mindfully. Research shows that people tend to underestimate their caloric intake , so keeping a food journal can help you find extra calories that might be sneaking into your diet. Typical culprits include soda and sugary carbs. Your doctor can refer you to a nutritionist if you need help figuring out how to alter your daily diet. 
  • Rediscover your body's abilities. Join a gym or exercise class, invest in a snazzy new bike, or get a dog; people who have one tend to get more exercise and be happier. As mentioned above, exercise can help ease depression, as well. Check with your doctor before you start just to make sure you're physically up to it.
  • Change your medication. If Celexa is causing weight gain, your doctor might change your medication--perhaps to a different SSRI or a non-SSRI such as Wellbutrin (bupropion).

Exercise as Depression Therapy

Research consistently indicates that physical exercise is effective in treating symptoms of depression.

A Word From Verywell

If you are concerned that you've gained excessive weight while taking Celexa and haven't been able to lose it on your own, talk to your doctor about the issue. You might be able to switch to a different medication with fewer weight-related side effects.

9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading
  • Weil, Andrew. "Why Do Antidepressants Cause Weight Gain?" Andrew Weil, M.D. Feb 11, 2011.

By Nancy Schimelpfening
Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be.